Meet Christina Russell, CEO of Woodhouse Spa (which currently has more than 80 locations in 22 states across the U.S.), who shares insight into the success of the franchise spa and massage business.  

Photo credit: Christina Russell

Can you tell me a little bit about the spas? 

Woodhouse Spa is the unequivocal leader in mood care, pioneering a new category of wellness. Where so much of the industry has moved toward basic massage services, we take a holistic approach to wellness that pairs the best massage therapies and facial rejuvenations with whole-body aesthetics, sleep therapies, restorative bath rituals, and other unparalleled services. Our spas are designed so that guests can linger and unwind in a luxurious setting as they would in the best resort spas, and we pride ourselves on delivering transformative results that last far beyond their day in our spa.

What makes us truly unique is that we have scaled our premier franchise model across 81 locations in 22 states including Texas, Colorado, California, New York, Ohio, and Florida. We’re on track to open 15 more locations by the end of 2024.

Photo credit: Woodhouse Spa

To what do you attribute the spa’s success?

We attribute our success to our fantastic spa owners. Each spa is independently owned and operated, and our franchise owners are passionate about luxury self-care. Many of them started out as Woodhouse guests that fell in love with the unique blend of traditional and cutting-edge services and techniques that make Woodhouse special. They take great pride in educating their teams and bringing the Woodhouse experience to their communities.

Our franchise owners also enjoy the proven business model, innovation, and support that comes from a premier franchise model. The spa business is complicated, and we’ve been refining our model for over 20 years with a proven track record for success. We’re recognized as the leader of our sector, and that’s attractive to anyone thinking about starting a luxury spa business.

Photo credit: Woodhouse Spa

What makes Woodhouse stand out from the competition?

Woodhouse is more than a spa; it’s a sanctuary offering guests one-of-a-kind wellness experiences. Our franchises are the go-to destination for every essential spa service, appealing to a wide variety of guests. Unlike the one-size-fits-all services of many spas, we’ve intentionally developed offerings that address our guests’ individualized pain points, like improving the sleep cycle and creating mental clarity.

In addition to helping guests prioritize self-care with our unparalleled treatments and services, there are other things that make the Woodhouse franchise model stand out:

  • Unmatched quality and design: Going far beyond a typical neighborhood spa, Woodhouse boasts elevated design with soothing natural tones and earthy textures that create a tranquil atmosphere, allowing guests to relax and recenter.
  • Diverse revenue streams: The Woodhouse franchise model includes diverse revenue streams – from our treatments and services to high-end retail products and gift cards.
  • Comprehensive support: From local and national marketing to operations software, Woodhouse provides its franchisees comprehensive support to ensure they have the tools and resources needed to be successful.

What have been the biggest challenges in growing Woodhouse?

There’s no question that the luxury spa model is complex, and we adhere to a high standard of excellence. We strive to find the best franchise owners, seek out the best locations, and design our spas to deliver the best guest experience. That said, our proven model and reputation for quality and success give us an edge. We’re on track to add 10 to 15 spas each year, and we’re constantly seeking out great businesspeople who are looking for opportunities in spa, have the capital to build, and have the experience to lead a team of spa professionals. Much of this happens organically through publications like this, where people learn what we do and reach out to learn more.

Another big challenge for all of us in the spa industry is building the right team. Massage therapists and estheticians are in high demand. While this is a challenge, we have advantages being in the luxury end of the market. We have an exciting menu of services that allows our spa professionals to constantly learn and grow, and we have a more sophisticated and experienced spa guest who gives our professionals the opportunity to flex their skills beyond basic massage and facials. Being at the higher end of the market also means that spa professionals can expect higher compensation and tips without having to commute to a resort. Our culture is a point of pride for our franchise owners, and many of our professionals have been with us for five-plus years, which speaks volumes.

Photo credit: Woodhouse Spa

What prompted any recent renovations and what did it involve?

Mirroring the quality of the world’s most reputable spas, Woodhouse has consciously curated an elevated design refresh that can be customized to accommodate our growing franchises.

Through careful consideration of the guest journey, we identified an optimal layout that not only maximizes the spa's space but also integrates design elements specifically aimed at enhancing the wellbeing of both guests and spa professionals. These elements include the thoughtful use of color, lighting, sound, and texture. For example, our Quiet Rooms are filled with cool gray tones with warm wood floors and ceiling beams, adorned with a large fireplace covered in textured tile with a white marble mantle. Calming music fills the space to fully immerse guests into a relaxing state to reduce blood pressure and lower overall stress ahead of their treatments.

How do you attract new and repeat clients and encourage them to visit?

The most important driver for both new and repeat clients is our impeccable quality of service and hospitality. Our customers leave transformed by the Woodhouse experience. They organically share their experiences, give gift cards to their family and friends, and look forward to their next visit. Beyond that, we invest heavily in technology to drive our guest recruiting and retention, using demand and trend data to reach guests where they are.

Our menu is also a big draw. Woodhouse has curated a unique mix of traditional and cutting-edge services and rituals designed to meet each guest’s individual needs. We are constantly innovating based on the latest trends that are showing up in the world’s most premier spas, combining both traditional Ayurvedic techniques with cutting edge technology. Guests who come for a traditional massage might be introduced to our bath rituals, sleep treatments, or poultice massage – things they won’t find in a traditional spa. It gives them a reason to keep coming back for more.

Photo credit: Woodhouse Spa

How do you use digital marketing and social media to boost business?

At Woodhouse, we employ a data-driven marketing approach that consists of both organic and paid media efforts across multiple channels. Utilizing sophisticated data platforms to garner consumer insight, we translate this information to predict customer needs, desires and future behaviors and develop personalized marketing strategies that set Woodhouse apart.

In addition to our robust digital marketing initiatives, we maintain an active and informative website that serves as a central hub for showcasing our services, spa locations, and promotions. Our website is designed to provide an engaging user experience, making it easy for guests to explore our offerings and book appointments conveniently. We also leverage various social media platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram, to engage with our audience and build a strong community. Through these channels, we share company and industry-related press, behind-the-scenes glimpses, and updates about our services and special offers.

How do you keep your staff selling? How do you keep your staff motivated?

We know from our survey work across our 81 spas that our spa professionals place a high value on culture and education. They love the culture of luxury and hospitality that Woodhouse provides. It brings in a more sophisticated guest that values the skills and knowledge of our therapists and estheticians, and it lets them showcase their skills beyond a basic massage or facial.

We also strive to deliver best-in-class education to support that. We’ve been honing our systems and support for over 20 years, and our franchise owners value the tools, resources, and ongoing education that we provide. This includes content for our therapists and estheticians, as well as our hospitality team. We’re focused on guest service skills, product knowledge, and sales techniques that support the guest experience. It helps tremendously that we offer products that are known for their quality and efficacy, so sales become a natural extension of service to our guests.

]We also understand that spa professionals want to be well paid, and we have an advantage in the luxury market of being able to offer both competitive pay and the higher tips that come from a larger average ticket.

Photo credit: Woodhouse Spa

How do you keep the treatment menu fresh and relevant?

In 2022, our team traveled to dozens of luxury spas across the country, testing more than 100 cutting-edge beauty services, to experience first-hand the treatments trending within the luxury spa sector. As a result of our findings, we’ve overhauled the Woodhouse menu of services to include premium services like the Black Sand Rejuvenation, which combines black sand and pumice stone for an invigorating full-body exfoliation that includes nourishing sea minerals. As we continue to grow and evolve, we will continue to tune in to the latest trends so we can continue to provide the ultimate spa experience.

What are your plans for the future?

Following The Woodhouse Spa's acquisition by Radiance Holdings in July of 2020, the brand has been aggressively targeting key markets throughout the U.S. for franchise development. At 81 locations and growing, Woodhouse Spas’ rapid expansion has solidified Woodhouse as one of the fastest growing, premier spa franchises. We’re focused on expanding our reach into new markets, and we’re currently targeting top-tier, high-demand areas such as Los Angeles, Chicago, Las Vegas, Scottsdale, Boston, and Philadelphia.

Photo credit: Woodhouse Spa

What have you learned about running a spa business from the COVID-19 pandemic?

Coming into 2020, Woodhouse was in the process of selling to Radiance Holdings. Where many businesses furloughed their teams and shut down, Woodhouse focused on growth. We were inspired by the courage of our franchise owners. Coming out of the pandemic, we worked closely with our franchise owners to launch a multi-million-dollar marketing fund, roll out a new POS system, implement a new communication and support strategy, launch a completely new spa menu, and introduce a new spa design that takes the Woodhouse experience to a new level. The result was two years of record sales in 2021 and 2022, and we’re still going strong. It was challenging, but by listening, engaging franchisees, and driving against data, we came through it stronger than ever and ready for continued expansion. The best validation is seeing the Woodhouse system go from less than 10 percent multi-unit owners to nearly 25 percent multi-unit. There is no greater vote of confidence than continued development, and we’re excited to see this trend continue in 2024 and beyond.