Not long ago when the health club industry designed new health clubs, we had to make sure that the clubs were not intimidating to women. We went through great lengths to ensure that their experience was a pleasurable one. Now, with the burgeoning spa market, it's just the opposite. We have to make sure that we do not alienate the male clientele.

One estimate from the International Spa Association (ISPA) found that males consist of one third of all spa users. However, not long ago, men who came to spas were given the same treatment as women even though men require different elements during their spa experience and relax in a different way than women do. The men were given the same robes as women, they were seated in a relaxation lounge to drink herbal tea, and they had lotions that smelled like their grandmother rubbed all over them while listening to whale sounds.

I still remember during one spa experience years ago being provided with a robe that made me look like Lurch from the “Adams Family,” and seeing my friend, who enjoys beer and whose stomach is evidence of that, unable to completely close the robe he was given to wear.

That is all changing. Now, the trend at spas is to focus on the male clientele. In fact, today, spas for men only are popping up all over, such as Nickel in New York and Paris, as well as specialty retailers such as “the art of shaving.”

Here are some ways that spas are catering to men and how you can target this demographic more effectively:

  • Change the atmosphere.

    Instead of making relaxation rooms all about quiet and herbal tea, relaxation lounges for men must provide something extra. Many relaxation lounges now have plasma TVs on which men can watch their favorite sporting events. The lounges even provide peanuts to munch on while relaxing infront of the TV. I was in one lounge the other day that even provided Starbucks coffee next to the herbal tea. Are beer and single malt scotch in the near future? Extra large robes, slippers that fit, pre and post shaving products, and face and body products specifically designed for men's skin are all the rage now.

  • Consider the menu.

    Changing the atmosphere is just part of the equation for making spas more comfortable and attractive for men. Spa owners also must consider the menu. Short and concise menus are best for men because they don't want to have to choose from 50 massages and facials. Instead, men prefer a short list with one to three treatments that are named something “manly.” Each treatment also needs an explanation using “man speak” — in other words, using plain English and terms that don't require a detailed explanation.

  • Customize the music.

    The more luxurious spas offer a selection of music so each man can choose the tunes that help him relax best. The man's preference can then be noted in the CRM software program for his next visit.

  • Simplify the products.

    When selling retail products to men, make sure the products are simple to use because men don't want a product that has “five easy steps.” Five steps aren't easy for men; they are just too many for them — try one step instead. Men just want to put on the product and then forget about it.

  • Cater to the couple.

    Another aspect of the spa design is the couple's room. Men might be more likely to try a spa if first accompanied by the woman in their life. These couple's rooms should be fun and interactive. One room I recently put into a spa had a small rasul room — a warm tiled room, where a couple can lie on a warm/heated tile bench with a slight steam and with candles strategically placed around them. They can apply/rub “mud” on each other. Once the mud takes its course, they can rinse each other off with a hand shower and cross over into the next area, which is a Swiss shower made for two. Then they can proceed to the two massage tables in the room for their treatments.

Marketing to couples is a great idea. A couple's massage can be a great way for couples to reconnect or a way for them to enjoy a very unique date. And who knows? If they enjoy the experience, they could become regulars.

So just because women have been the mainstay of many spas for years doesn't mean that spas should ignore the men's market. After all, that market isn't as complex as it may seem, just a bit different from the market we've all become accustomed to in the past.


Glenn Colarossi is the president of Colarossi Spa & Health Club Consulting & Management. He has worked on projects throughout the world for five-star clients. He can be reached at 203-357-7555 or www.healthclubandspa.com.