Printed from : LMD

06 Aug 2015

It’s like Uber, but for massage
   BY Liz Terry

In 2013, I wrote an editor’s letter entitled Competition is Everywhere, which highlighted the likelihood of competitive threats emerging from non-spa businesses to challenge the place of spas as deliverers of treatments.

The premise was that spa businesses are burdened with overheads and that new operations which reduce costs by adopting nimble practices could enter the market and thrive, to the potential detriment of spas.

This year, our Spa Foresight™ report has confirmed one such model – spa-on-demand – as a future force to be reckoned with, and in this issue (Spa Business 2015 issue 3 page 70), we examine what this means tactically for spa and wellness operators.

Anything that’s easier and cheaper and offers great quality and value is bound to thrive. New arrivals such as the US-based Zeel, Soothe and Unwind Me, are growing their businesses through web and app bookings and the aggregation of self-employed people. Essentially they’re Uber businesses for spa, offering consumers the chance to book an immediate massage or treatment to be delivered in their home. Not even the original spa disruptor – Massage Envy – will be immune from the impact.

There have been home spa businesses before, but none have gained much traction. This next generation, with their tech infrastructure, look far more likely to succeed.

So what can spas do to co-exist? One option is to take the view that if you can’t beat them, join them. Many spas have low off-peak occupancy and gearing up to do home visits would be a great way to engage with more customers, optimise therapists’ time and increase turnover and yield during these quieter periods.

There would be matters to be arranged – training, contracts and insurance, for example, but there’s no reason spas can’t compete successfully in the spa-on-demand market – indeed there are few better placed to do so.

The second opportunity lies in becoming more responsive to last minute bookings. People want treatments when they want them and spas have been slow to catch on to this and do something about it.

I regularly try to book spa treatments at short notice and I have never once been successful, so I’m a prime candidate for spa-on-demand – but I’d far rather spas said yes to my booking requests.

This last point is important because the turnaway levels spas operate at are eye wateringly high. As Samer Hamadeh, founder and CEO of Zeel says on Spa Business 2015 issue 3 page 71 – “there are millions of missing massages in the industry”. Time is the ultimate perishable commodity, and if spas don’t want the customers and the massage-on-demand businesses do, then perhaps they can co-exist, with spas picking up the longer-term bookings and the massageon-demand businesses dealing with the now.

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