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Massage Today
March, 2002, Vol. 02, Issue 03

Building a Successful Spa: Step Three -- Location, Location, Location

By John Fanuzzi

How many times have you driven by a commercial property and commented, "What a great place to put a business"? Chances are the real estate or rent might be very high or unavailable - but how important is location? Do you get what you pay for, or do you create your location? Do you settle for what's around, or do you keep looking?

I would consider the following when choosing an ideal location for a day spa:

  1. Rural, quiet setting - Within 5-20 minutes of a populated area.
    a. Better chance to buy or rent for less.
    b. Parking is usually abundant.
    c. Could be a stand-alone building or remodeled house.
    d. A feeling for customers of getting away; a mini retreat without the travel.
    e. Greater chances for future expansion.
    f. Disadvantages: no one knows where you are, necessitating a greater need for marketing, promotion, and unique character to attract clients.
  2. Lease space next to a complementary business like a hair salon.
    a. Could equate to savings on initial marketing expense.
    b. Spillover business and referrals.
  3. Downtown area with street parking or valet service.
    a. Has a built-in marketing advantage - visibility and accessibility.
    b. Proximity to walk-in traffic.
  4. Shopping mall.
    a. Good for walk-in services such as hair, pedicures, manicures, etc.
    b. Customers might like the convenience of shopping and spa services in the same place.

The location must be a draw for the type of clientele you are trying to attract. Prime location may or may not be an advantage to you. For example, if you plan on offering outdoor tai chi or yoga, fitness or nature walks, these services would be better suited for a remote setting.

If you already own a property without high traffic or are in a secluded location, you may have to adapt your business style and marketing to attract customers according to that location. This is the case in my personal situation: I already own the property. It is actually a challenging location, being so remote in Montana - 50 miles from a population base in Bozeman. To balance the situation, our market must reach a national audience. Friends said I was crazy back in 1985 when I moved Golden Ratio to Montana. My vision did not include a local market. I make my niche now with the Wellspring Institute by attracting a broad variety of customers, local and distant; by having housing for those out of state; and by offering an adventure program, corporate spa getaways, and rejuvenation programs that include longer stays with a cleansing program.

Recently, I attended the Murietta Day Spa, which is about an hour from Los Angeles, California. The owner told me that the spa relies on business from people who want to get away for the day, but do not necessarily want to fly or stay in a hotel overnight. The spa was beautiful and provided plenty of parking. My full day in the spa was shortly after the events of September 11, 2001. To my surprise, the staff told me that they did not notice any slowdown in their business. In fact, they had more people coming to the spa - people who didn't want to fly to a get-away resort.

When I set up Montana Bodycare and Dayspa in Bozeman, I found a location next to a busy hair salon, just off the main drag. I thought the proximity to the salon would pay off. It did - in fact, the current owner bought the salon and knocked a hole through the wall to connect the two businesses.

Here's another important consideration when setting up a spa -- Should I buy or lease? This is a big decision, because if you lease, you usually have to spend your money to make the leasehold improvements, which you do not own. Sometimes the developer of a new commercial property will include the initial improvements, but you will most likely pay more rent. When you start putting plumbing in every room and showers, wet rooms, steam, tile etc., it adds up quickly. Experience has taught me that you will always spend more than originally planned. (My latest advice/warning is to double what you planned to spend)

Make your choice of location and theme wisely. The two must fit together. In this industry, reputation and word of mouth will prevail. A successful blending of the appropriate elements will bring repeat customers, and those steady customers will bring their friends. The bottom line is, it must be the right location for you.

Next month, we will discuss the importance of budgeting, financing, and cash requirements.

Only Victory,

John Fanuzzi

Click here for previous articles by John Fanuzzi.


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