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There is a luxury market and spas shouldn’t be afraid to price accordingly

luxury spa spa business spa industry therapist training Feb 22, 2022

Somewhere around the launch of Groupon the world went mad for discount models. It wasn’t the first time that discount pricing had been used to entice buyers and to help businesses compete in their specific marketplace, nor will it be the last.

However, it was the epitome of our obsession with a good bargain, and it seemed to embody the ethos that tells businesses owners 'cheaper is better’. While highly competitive pricing works wonders for some businesses, it’s not the only game in town.

In this article, we wanted to take a moment to look at the luxury spa market and to explore why spa, salons and therapist businesses don’t always need to be in a race to the bottom when it comes to price.

The spa industry is a diverse place

In our line of work we have the enormous privilege of working with spas of all shapes and sizes. Some businesses are one-man/woman-bands, some are small salons and some are really very large spa destinations. Cancer doesn’t discriminate based on scale or luxury, and neither does the need for oncology touch treatments.

Not long ago we wrote about why spas shouldn’t feel obligated to offer oncology touch treatments for free. It can be a nice thing to do in the right context, but we can’t and shouldn’t always assume that free or cheap is what’s best for business or the client.

SHOULD I BE GIVING CANCER PATIENTS FREE SPA TREATMENTS?

However, it’s not just about whether spa treatments are free or not, there’s often a sense that especially after a period of economic difficulty, a luxury brand is a tough sell. In some respects it is, but then again, all businesses have their challenges.

Don’t be afraid to be a luxury brand

As a case in point - and at the rather extreme end of the spectrum - we recently had the privilege of going on a tour around Grantley Hall in Yorkshire. Following a £70 million renovation, the immaculate country house turned five-star hotel and spa opened in 2019 and it leaves no precious stone left unturned.

From the Maseratis for sale on the front drive to the 3D body scanner in the Elite gym, the Michelin star restaurant to the Gatsby-esque champagne and cocktail bar, the cryotherapy chamber and underwater treadmills to the customer service, everything takes luxury to the ultimate height.

In the Three Graces Spa, one particularly lovely feature is the presence of pool porters, ready and waiting to take drinks orders and keep the spa superbly tidy. They attend to your every need and generally making you and the space you’re in feel cared for.

The hotel and spa manages to be at almost total capacity all the time post pandemic, despite being the height of luxury (and luxury pricing), and yet as you walk around you feel almost as though it’s your own private retreat.

From Grantley Hall, and others who do luxury extremely well, we can learn a few things:

1) If you’re going to do luxury, do it right

The only way you can do luxury and charge luxury prices is if the whole experience is seamless and coherent. That means that everything from the branding to the facilities, the therapist training, the products and the service, all need to be telling the same story. However you position yourself in the market, you’ve got to reiterate it at every touchpoint in the customer experience.

2) Look after your team

The Spa Director at Grantley Hall is one of the most in demand women in the industry. She has a reputation for excellence, and one of the things she is particularly skilled at is motivating her team. As a case in point, we have mentioned the pool porters. We spoke to one, who was a young, enthusiastic and extremely diligent girl. Naturally, some of that is her own character. However, the Spa Director had imbued her with a sense of purpose - reminding her that her role was imperative to the success of the spa. She is client facing, front of house and her job impacts every experience the client has. She is supported in her role, given confidence and autonomy. The net result was that she was completely confident in her position, felt cared for and did her job with pride.

THE SEARCH FOR MEANING IN OUR WORK AS THERAPISTS

3) Listen to your customers

Most of the spas we work with already know this and are doing it well, but so much of any business is about listening to customers and both responding to and anticipating their needs. Last year Forbes ran an article about how luxury brands are changing and how consumer wants from luxury brands are also evolving. Environmental awareness, looking after your team, a social conscience, personalised experiences and, crucially, being authentic to those values rather than paying lip service to them, are all showing to be high priorities amongst consumers.

4) Take a long-term view

We all like to bag a bargain on a whim, but unless we’re amongst the super wealthy, most of us consider bigger luxuries for a little while before purchase. We save up for them, we research, we have a little think.

However, there’s also much more space to have long-term relationships with the brands that we spend more with if we feel it was worth it. As the cost of winning a new customer is substantially higher than retaining an existing one, it stands to reason that we should all be seeking out and investing in long-term relationships with our customers.

This of course is where luxury, on whatever scale, comes into its own. Looking after people, making them feel spoiled, staying in touch - it all counts. There are downsides to taking a long-term view - ultimately, you’ve got to be able to afford it in the long-term, and that’s not something all of us can do. However, if you can, then there can be incredible upsides as well.

Only do discounts if they work for your business

All that said, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with taking a different approach either. Discounts and highly competitive pricing can be an excellent way to compete in any market, but only if your business and your brand is wired that way. Our observations on this front include:

Is discount pricing on brand?

There are numerous examples in the luxury sphere of businesses that never discount their prices because it isn’t in keeping with their brand, in fact it would damage it - Apple, Hermes, Tiffany, Louis Vuitton etc. Discounting and being extremely competitive on pricing is the hallmark of some brands and is anathema to others - decide which you are and stick to it.

What are the benefits or potential damages?

By the same token, sometimes discounts can work a little too well, and while you can end up enormously busy, you are in effect just moving money around and sometimes losing it. Of course, some businesses intentionally have a loss leader (a pricing strategy where a product is sold at a price below its market cost to stimulate other sales of more profitable goods or services), and that can work too, as long as it’s done intentionally.

In short, there’s space in the spa industry for everyone, but there often seems to be the feeling that we should all be aiming for the lowest possible price. Not every spa is Grantley Hall, and neither should it be - that would be a bit boring. It isn’t always the right moment for a really luxurious experience and we don’t all have the capacity to spend enormous amounts of money all of the time. The point is that if you have the capacity to do luxury spa experiences right, don’t be afraid to do it and definitely don’t feel like you have to be beaten down on price.

Are your therapists trained to provide the level of experience you want to offer?

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT JENNIFER YOUNG TRAINING



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