Spa Industry Trends: What Can You Learn?

Some overall trends from a study of the spa industry.

Every two years, the International Spa Association ( conducts a study of the spa industry that looks at overall trends. The most recent edition has data through 2003, and a number of facts will be of interest to fitness centers that either currently offer spa facilities, or that are planning to add them.

Day spas are most popular

Fact. Day Spas comprise 70 percent of the total number of spas, and their gross revenue grew 10 percent annually over the most recent two years of the study period. Since day spas draw their clientele from the geographical area closest to them, it seems that spa consumers seek services near to where they live or work (like fitness centers).

Caution. The vast majority of day spas offer hair and nail services. A large part of day spas' success is attributable to their ability to manage these services, in addition to massage and skin care.

There is room for small operations

Fact. Only 3 percent of all spas are brand-affiliated. There are few "big names" in the spa world, which must deal with expensive marketing campaigns and huge investments in the physical plant. Plenty of opportunity exists for fitness centers that want to add two to five treatment rooms to their other amenities.

Caution. Considering the number of spa options available in the marketplace, it may be difficult to get the attention of non-members who are being bombarded by messages from others whose offerings look and sound similar.

New customers are everywhere

Fact. Spas report that, on average, 43 percent of visits to their facilities are made by new clients. This seems to suggest that the pool of potential spa customers is a large one, and it is possible for new spas to build a client base quickly. Growth potential for spa customers is good.

Caution. The study doesn't say whether these people are new to the "world of spa," or are simply switching from another spa. If it's the latter, these new faces may be habitual "switchers," and may be hard to keep as long-term patrons.

Spas are expanding

Fact. Almost one-fifth (19 percent) of spas plan to renovate or expand in the next five years. Clearly, many of those already in the business see enough opportunity that they are willing to build to meet it.

Caution. Fitness centers wishing to add spa services should determine if their competitors are planning an expansion.

Overall trends

Following are some overall trends from the study:

1. There seems to be fairly high ownership turnover in the spa industry. This signals the need for experienced and competent management to ensure the survival of the business. Fitness centers wishing to add spa services should seek the assistance of seasoned managers or consultants when developing a spa plan.

2. The days of large growth in the business may be over. From a peak annual growth of 51 percent in 2000, growth in the number of spas in 2003 was only 3 percent. On the upside, industry gross revenue is still $11.3 billion.

3. Spas have gained a new aura of respectability. Emphasis has shifted from self-indulgent pampering to self-preservation. This fits nicely with the wellness theme that many fitness centers seek.

4. Nineteen percent of respondents said that their spas had seen a noticeable influx of male patrons. Men now comprise one-quarter of spa-goers. As recently as five years ago, this percentage was less than half that amount. This is a promising trend for health clubs, whose patrons are half men.

Spa and even salon services remain a legitimate candidate for inclusion in the mix of amenities and services that today's full-service fitness centers can offer. Adding them to your facility can go a long way toward retaining members, attracting new ones and increasing annual revenue per member. More than ever, careful planning with the help of experienced people will pave the way for a successful spa enterprise within your fitness facility.
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