What's up for this year? - synopsis of Spa Exec NY

The SpaExec event in New York presented both a fact-filled report from a research organization, and the a great panel discussion with a lot of contribution from the audience.  The main themes were:

1) The recession isn’t over yet; not a surprise to most of us.  Conditions are better, but not great.  The road to recovery looks different depending on the geography.  Some folks still see mountains ahead, where others are gaining a broader horizon.  But no matter where you live, the positive signs don’t include a return to previous levels of business anytime soon.  Consumers have had their knuckles rapped, and hard.  In the U.S., we are putting more money in our cookie jars and less into discretionary activities and services we’ve learned we can live without.

Having said that, some of the new consumer trends can be neatly tied into the spa message, with the right marketing.  Value is still important, but not just in the sense of the “cheapest” option; more of a “getting my moneys worth” approach.  So quality of service, environment, customer care factor into the selection equation more than ever.  Good news, the increased interest in wellness and leisure play to our strengths.  The spa industry needs to provide compelling options that satisfy the consumer craving for self-time and small indulgences, and position wellness as a benefit, not the feature.  Even time spent alone in a comfy chair with a warm cup of herbal tea is a valued component of the spa visit and cannot be overlooked.  Although we’ve actively stopped using the “P” word, pampering, clients are still seeking this very benefit.  Susie Ellis elaborates in her blog: http://blog.spafinder.com/2010/03/spatrend-prevention.html.

2) We need more new clients!  The spa industry in the U.S. is approaching 25 years old; the baby boomers that got us started are watching dwindling economic reserves and moving on to other pastimes.  The Gen X’ers and Millenials that follow must be brought into the fold, which will require rethinking not just marketing language, but our whole approach to spa services.  These generations greatly value experiences over things; are eco-conscious, and socially aware.  We’ve already seen the signs; no longer do clients reserve 4 hours of time at the spa, they come for quick short bursts, without a long lead time.  We’ll need to make sure we connect with the consumer at a deeper level and emphasize emotional replenishment.  Spas should be eco- and socially-conscious when possible, and menus need to be written with flexibility and options in mind.  Above all, this new consumer was born wired and the successful spa will be a consistent presence in the digital domains where these clients live.