Can Spas and Fitness Work Together?

When planning a spa, take into consideration the difference in atmosphere for the two environments.

THE EXPLOSIVE GROWTH seen within the spa industry appears to be spurred by the same population that has fueled the increase in fitness center memberships. Studies of the spa market suggest that the proliferation of spas of various sizes and types is a trend that spells significant opportunity for fitness facilities. In planning the addition of spa services, it is critical for fitness center owners to recognize that, although the demographics and motivations of spa patrons and fitness center members are similar, the appropriate atmosphere for the two environments is decidedly different. Whereas fitness facilities expend a significant amount of effort creating an exciting, high-energy climate for exercisers, the spa goer is seeking a subdued and tranquil environment. Spa planning should take this fact into consideration. While the ideal location for a suite of treatment rooms is adjacent to existing locker rooms with direct access from them, a quiet spa lounge area is also recommended to help spa patrons make the transition from the noise and light of a conventional locker room to the tranquility of the spa.
Spas constitute a potentially significant source of revenue for fitness facilities.


Despite the similarities in customer profile between fitness facilities and spas, they are two very different businesses. The most obvious difference is that spa services are provided one-on-one by appointment - there is no such thing as a self-service spa. This means that every revenue-generating activity in the spa needs to be scheduled and staffed by someone. Among other things, this places a premium on maintaining a steady pace of business throughout the day. A balance must also be struck between having enough staff on duty to meet demand, and controlling the spa's staffing costs. On average, labor and associated costs represent 48 percent of gross revenues in spas. Thus, mis-management of this cost item will result in diminished profit margins. In an attempt to unburden themselves of the payroll costs of employees, spa operators sometimes rely on the services of independent contractors. Well-operated spas, however, must exercise a fair amount of control over the quality and pace of therapists' work. Furthermore, there is a constant need for training and retraining of staff. Medical science and research spawn many of the cutting-edge therapies that capture the interest of today's spa patron. Microdermabrasion and non-surgical face-lifts are two examples. Even though non-medical personnel can successfully administer many of these treatments, they require a fair amount of training and retraining to achieve the desired quality control. Cross-training of staff is increasingly necessary. As spas continue to bundle services, staff may be asked to perform more than one service for the same client, so all staff must be knowledgeable about complementary services and be able to up-sell those services.

Operational issues

Even though the spa industry is growing exponentially, a great many people are new to the world of spas. While they are curious and willing to be introduced to spa services, the atmosphere, concepts and even the language of spas are new to them. Thus, careful attention must be paid to your spa's marketing efforts. Retail sales are potentially lucrative, as well. On average, the spa industry sees 30 cents in retail revenue for every dollar of service revenue. And, from a retail perspective, skincare is king, generating as much as $1 or more of retail product sales for every dollar of service revenue. Attaining or exceeding these benchmarks means that managing inventory, merchandising, sales training and purchasing is critical to the success of a spa. Sanitation and housekeeping are just as important in a spa as they are in a fitness center. Spa treatments require a steady supply of fresh linens (sheets, pillowcases, towels, bathrobes, slippers and so on) and the means to process them. In all likelihood, an onsite laundry will be required to meet this demand. If your fitness facility already has an onsite laundry, operators may need to consider upgrading it to increase capacity. Also necessary to providing these functions are the services of a day porter or spa attendant, who will be the spa's first line of defense against odor, supply logistics and sanitation problems. The demographic similarities between fitness center members and spa-goers are demonstrable, and the motivations of the two groups are likewise similar: to look and feel better. Clearly, spas constitute a potentially significant source of revenue for fitness facilities.
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