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Massage Today
September, 2003, Vol. 03, Issue 09

Spa Letters

By Steve Capellini, LMT

Author's Note: The Spa Letters column features news, personality profiles, trends, and plenty of professional possibilities for LMTs in the spa industry. The style is epistolary, meaning the articles are letters to a fictional massage therapist friend of the author.

Dear Lou,

The Spa House is on its way to being open! I'm excited for you, as your amazing dream becomes a reality.

Now that you've chosen a grand-opening date and your goal is in sight, what will you focus on first: hiring your staff? Testing the skills of new therapists and estheticians? Setting up a retail sales system? Getting a top-notch receptionist? Choosing a spa consultant to help you? What pieces of equipment should you purchase? Which product lines should you feature? The list goes on and on....

Let's start at the beginning. In my last letter, I asked you to come up a "unique selling proposition." You did, and it's a good one, too! The unique selling proposition (USP) is a way for you to encapsulate exactly what you offer so people you meet can get a feeling for your business. It is usually couched in terms of problem/solution or need/fulfillment. Yours is a beauty:

"You know how you crave the luxury and health benefits of a trip to a great spa, but don't always have the time or money for such a trip? Well, at The Spa House, we specialize in five-star customer service and luxurious stress-relieving treatments right here in your hometown."

I like those strong verbs: "crave" and "specialize." I like the way you've focused on the community, making The Spa House part of the fabric of daily life for the people in your town. That's a smart move. I predict you'll have some success with this USP if you use it to your advantage. Make a point of repeating it a dozen times a day. When you meet people, let them know what you do. You've got to start switching from Lou the therapist and Lou the employee, to Lou the spa owner!

So, what are you going to tackle today, spa owner? Maybe you can use the USP to lead you in the right direction. You want a spa that feels luxurious, but doesn't have a huge overhead, which means you don't want to invest in expensive, high-tech equipment right off the bat. What, then, are your alternatives?

Getting Equipped

You want to give your guests the royal treatment when they arrive at The Spa House, but that doesn't necessarily mean they'll be expecting top-of-the-line FF&E (furniture, fixtures, equipment). I've seen many spas create a luxurious environment with a blend of "eclectic" decorations and equipment. The pieces of hydrotherapy equipment you mentioned wanting - the Vichy shower; the Swiss shower; the multi-jet hydrotherapy tubs; and the Scotch hose, for example - are a few items that can wait until you have a track record of ongoing success. I know they're beautiful, especially in those spa magazine ads, and you'd love to offer your guests a treatment in one of those hydrotherapy havens - but do you really need them at this stage?

You learned how to operate this equipment while working at the resort spa, and you know it's not that difficult; you also learned that spa guests can have a bad experience on good equipment in the same way that they can have a sublime experience with no equipment at all. One of the best experiences I ever had in a spa was being massaged with aromatic oils, then wrapped in a cotton sheet for half an hour - it doesn't take much.

You and your partner Barbara have a tidy sum of money to invest, but since you're not independently wealthy, you're keeping a keen eye on the bottom line. In this situation, I recommend you strike a mid-tone in your decor, equipment and furnishings. There are a couple shortcuts you can take, and other areas where you should definitely not cut corners.

Wet Room Basics

Because you are building a substantial spa, not just adding a few spa services to a regular massage room, you'll want to invest in one (and only one) wet room. A wet room is a room with plumbing in it, often with a drain in the floor. A shower may or may not be included. The "dry room," on the other hand, is a massage room with no plumbing, save for, perhaps, a sink. It can have a carpeted floor or tile, but it is not designed for hydrotherapy treatments.

I've seen several new spa owners over-invest in wet room equipment, erroneously thinking that these more "exotic" fixtures are crucial to a classy spa and would attract more clients. One salon-owner insisted on outfitting three full wet rooms in a four-room spa! Needless to say, the rooms were underutilized and dismantled within a short period of time to make way for more popular (and thus, profitable) treatments. In another letter I'll explain how you can use a "dry room" to offer your guests almost all the same treatments you can in a wet room. For now, I suggest one full wet room for The Spa House. Now, what will that room include?

A Wet Table

Your new wet room should definitely include a "wet table." As you know, a wet table is not a table on which someone has spilled water. It's a specially constructed treatment surface that traps water and products used in spa services and funnels them down through a drain either into the floor or sometimes a receptacle below the table. You've no doubt seen plenty of them advertised in the spa equipment catalogues you've been perusing recently. Since you are going to have a wet room, it's a good idea to get a wet table.

In my opinion, wet tables are great for use in exfoliation treatments. They make these treatments easy for you and more luxurious for your guest. Nothing beats the experience of fully reclining while having top-of-the-line spa products sluiced from your newly cleansed skin with warm water. However, when used for wraps, such as mud, clay, fango and seaweed, a wet table may hinder rather than aid the process. I've laid on many a wet table after a seaweed or mud treatment and been hosed down by the therapist, only to wish I could crawl off into a shower instead.

Don't forget, you can make your wet treatment room into a multi purpose space in which you can schedule wraps, scrubs, and even massages. Don't do yourself the disservice of over specializing treatment space. The more types of treatments you can perform in each room, the greater your potential income. Most wet tables these days come with a cushioned top upon which clients can lay comfortably throughout an entire wrap or other service.

My advice for your wet room: a nice wet table for exfoliations with a handheld showerhead, and a shower stall in the corner for washing off wraps. This double duty shower setup may be a little more expensive, but the investment is not that high compared to what many new spa owners get themselves into.

Consult With the Spa Doctor

See how tricky this spa setup process can be? This is why so many people in your situation enlist the services of an experienced consultant at this stage. Among other things, a good consultant will be able to look over your space and let you know what's most important to purchase within your budget, before opening. The spa consultant issue is something I'd like to address at greater length, so that will have to wait until next time.

Until then, get going on the hunt for that perfect wet table!

Take Care,

Steve Capellini, LMT

Click here for previous articles by Steve Capellini, LMT.


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