Today consumers everywhere at every income level want more luxury and are willing to pay for it. "Luxury is no longer something 'out there,' restricted by income levels, personal wealth, or spending budgets," say luxury expert Pamela Danziger in her latest book, Let Them Eat Cake: Marketing Luxury to the Masses—as Well as the Classes. (Dearborn Trade Publishing, 2005)."It's an experience everyone wants and believes they deserve."

The one dominant definition of luxury among all the luxury consumers and luxury company executives researched by Danziger is "that which no body needs but desires."
The word luxury comes from the Latin "luxuria," which means "excess" or "extras of life." However, whereas old luxury is about the thing (i.e., a noun) , Danziger defines new luxury as the consumer's experience (i.e., a verb.) Experiential luxuries include luxury travel, fine dining and restaurants; entertainment (including theater, shows, and concerts); and beauty, spa, and massage services.

When asked from where consumers derive their greatest satisfaction as luxury consumers, the greatest share of luxury consumers (41 percent) said that experiential luxuries provide their greatest source of luxury satisfaction and happiness. According to Danziger's research, more than 80% of luxury consumers agree with the following statements that reflect the experiential dimension of luxury:

• Luxury is buying those extras in life that make it more comfortable and meaningful. (86 percent)

• Luxury is having the feeling I can do what I want when I want to. (84 percent)

• Luxury is being able to pursuer my passions and interests. (83 percent)

Great Spa Treatments are just the beginning! Producing great spa treatments is no longer enough to satisfy the luxury consumer. "Marketers can't rely anymore simply upon creating the 'best of the best' product to capture the attention of today's new luxury consumer," says Danziger. Take the luxury dining experience, for Example. Danziger's research shows that the service personnel, the atmosphere, and the way customers are treated in the dining room primarily define the luxury consumer's dining experience. Fine food, on the other hand, is simply taken for granted.

This finding has huge implications for spa managers who devote the majority percent of their time to what is happening in the treatment room. To align their spa with the luxury expectations of the consumer, they need to concentrate on the entire spa experience, from reception to exit.

Values-Driven Luxury

The definition of luxury has changed from status conscious frivolity, to something more meaningful. Consumers are bringing a new sensibility into the marketplace that is about more than having and getting. They want their consumerism to provide a greater meaning and they are looking to 'do good' when they shop. Catering to the today's luxury market means aligning with consumers' values. A new magazine called Plenty is written for a socially-responsible and ecologically-conscious consumer, who values the finer things in life, like organic food, designer clothes and elegant furniture made from sustainable resources.


The luxury consumer has shifted from caring about the material element to the unique experiences that make them feel special. As the luxury market booms, many spas are investing in 'personalization' as a competitive strategy. Memberships and VIP programs are a good way to drive an emotional attachment to your spas and create cachet.