Spas are more popular than ever, but are spas just a trend or are they here to stay? First known for her early 1990's prediction that Americans would soon be cocooning, Faith Popcorn has since become the guru of our age on being a consumer, being a human and living in this era. Many of her trending concepts directly coincide with where the spa industry is headed. When one ponders that society used to enjoy quilting circles, square dances and church socials, it is no wonder that we have found a new way to relate, refuel, commune and center ourselves — at the spa.

SOCIETAL SHIFTS

The spa is the new church, it is the new downtown or it is the new town hall. For better or for worse, the spa trend is society's way of getting connected, relaxing and feeling loved. More interesting, or perhaps more obvious, is the interest in living a full life. Alternative health, wellness and spirituality practices of all sorts are booming.

Anti-aging or “down-aging,” comes in all of the scientific and nutraceutical forms but it also arrives in the traditional wants of particular age groups: make-up colors, hairstyles and other creature comforts. Popcorn calls it “pleasure revenge.” Consumers are striking out and doing what feels right for them. She references martinis and beef — I would reference a 90-minute massage or anti-aging facials.

MORE DAY SPAS

Small indulgences are also one of Popcorn's mantras. Guess what? As the economy declines and life becomes more and more uncertain…women choose more lip colors. People choose to indulge in massage. It is an ancient economic truth that when the world falls into a state of crisis, consumers choose to indulge in the little things, like one-hour services and samplings of home care products. The future of larger item pilgrimages, however, is bleak unless the economy picks up and terrorism is played down. Consumers simply do not want to travel and cannot splurge on expensive, self-indulgent trips of the scope of a destination spa venture.

Day spas will continue to reap the benefits of this shift in the community, as will medical spas. Resorts and destination-based wellness centers will continue to thrive but only when basing their efforts around lifestyle refining and programming such as diet, exercise and substance abuse management. Spirituality-based programs will also thrive as consumers learn that there is more to life than a job and an SUV. Everyday items consumers can afford, like a $7.99 tube of toothpaste or a $75 massage, are great examples of some indulgences.

SPAS IN HOSPITALS

Hospitals will continue to invade the wellness turf. Recently, researchers have sought to prove why alternative treatments such as therapeutic touch, reflexology and improved attitude help the physical healing process. Other therapies, such as hydrotherapies, have been used for thousands of years as natural healing and nourishing therapies. For years, Europeans have combined what we, the United States, think of as alternative therapies with medical therapies.

The recent trend in hospital spas is to offer relatively inexpensive, short bedside treatments to relieve stress, raise spirits, improve attitudes and promote healing. These treatments include massage therapy consisting of hand, foot and facial massages using reflexology techniques to relieve stress and promote healing in specific areas of the body. Additionally, more cosmetic treatments are offered such as healing cream manicures and pedicures, make-up application and bedside hair wash and style. These treatments often lift spirits and improve attitude by allowing a patient to feel pampered and beautiful. These treatments usually range from $15 to $40, which makes them relatively affordable to patients.

Melinda Minton is a spa consultant and health and beauty expert in Fort Collins, CO. Minton is the founder of The Spa Association, an organization dedicated to enriching the professional beauty industry through self-regulation, education and sound business practices.

OTHER TRENDS

  • Egonomics: Consumers want to be touched, personally cared for, individually noticed and want their retail purchases to be customized. Consumers are willing to pay more for all of this.
  • Three million Americans practice yoga and martial arts. Soft movement therapies like Pilates and Tai Chi are increasingly becoming mainstays of group exercise and more than ever this type of client is requesting spa therapies as a part of his or her fitness programming.
  • Ninety seven percent of consumers visiting Las Vegas prefer themed settings; theme parks are boasting annual revenues of $6 billion. This notion of themed venues ties in with the consumer's longing to escape the pressures of every day living. Heavily themed spas are becoming more popular as a result.