New York Times Interviews ESPA's Susan Harmsworth

Susan HarmsworthJane Levere's recent story in the New York Times Recession Hits Luxury Spa Business Across Countries features an interview with Susan Harmsworth, CEO of British-based ESPA International. ESPA is currently working in 55 countries and manages 70 spas globally, with branded products and treatments in 200 spas worldwide.

In the NYT interview, Harmsworth reports that 20 of ESPA's spa projects had been either postponed or canceled in the past four months. "The recession is the worst I've ever seen because it's so totally global. There's not a market that hasn't been affected. I don't have a client that's not affected." The sites that were in planning that are on hold while they refinance are Kazakhstan, Costa Rica, Dubai, Macao, Las Vegas.

When asked why 40 percent of ESPA was sold to Istithmar World Capital, a private equity arm of Dubai World, last year, Harmsworth responds: "The spa industry isn't as profitable as people think...we built the infrastructure of our company and our team and our global presence very slowly and very solidly. When Istithmar approached us, we felt that the opportunity to maximize that a little bit quicker would make it much easier."

As one of the spa industry's largest spa brands, ESPA revenues are at around £20 million for the year ending April 1, 2009, according to Harsworth. "That's product and services, fees for management, design and recruitment. This doesn't include revenue from each spa individually.'

Despite the downturn, ESPA has 11 spas opening in 2009.