Carving Your Niche in the Spa Market

What is the first image that comes to mind when you hear the words “spa day?” Scrap the cliché images of beautiful, young women in fluffy robes. Instead, picture this: macho men drinking herbal tea, toddlers receiving shiatsu massages, or fluffy dogs with pink nail polish.

This may not be the typical spa day for most people, but these sights are normal for the growing number of spa owners who choose to target specific niche markets.

The list of specialized spas is endless; the more common demographic targets are men, pregnant women and toddlers, teens, and canines. Another popular practice is branding your spa as a mobile spa. Mobile spas travel to clients and provide spa services on-site for bachelorette or children’s birthday parties.

There are many factors to consider when defining a niche market for your business. If you want to follow this trend you should do your research, do your homework, and do your due diligence.

Before committing to a specific niche, it is crucial to find out the statistics about the specific demographic you plan to target. The most important aspect is determining whether or not the niche is already being served in your area. If not, is there a large enough market to generate revenue and make a profit in the region you plan to serve?

Once you have found your niche, commit to it. In order to market your business as a specialized spa, the focus of the spa must stay the same and services offered should remain consistent and relevant to the targeted market.

Strictly Men

Daniel Rodrigues, the owner of METROsexual: The Spa for Men, an upscale spa in downtown Toronto with a strict male clientele base, says physical appearance is the number one draw in selling, presenting, and engaging people in a professional and social environment.

“My clients need these grooming services and so do most men, the question is: where were they going to receive these treatments?” Rodrigues asks.

Before he opened The Spa for Men, Rodrigues said he often turned to spas that operated from homes which were unregulated, uninsured, and did not provide sanitary environments. “I felt uncomfortable in co-ed spas. Instead of having to relive the experience, I chose to receive spa services in more discreet environments,” he admits.

Rodrigues felt enough was enough. It was time for men to indulge in spa treatments and have a go-to place for esthetic services in a comfortable, clean, and non-judgmental environment.

“We needed a male-focused spa. The majority of co-ed spas are female dominated and this can be intimidating to men,” he says.

Thus came the beginning of The Spa for Men. He envisioned a modern spa with a masculine environment where men can relax and watch the game on flat screen TVs, all while being pampered.

The products used are specifically catered to the preferences of most men; The Spa for Men uses pH balanced skincare, specialty shaving creams, products with neutral scents, and subtle nail finishes.

Rodrigues admits he has turned away potential business from women interested in the exclusive services such as oxygen facials or the noninvasive I-Lipo fat melting treatments.

Although there would be a financial gain and clientele increase in featuring one day each week to invite women into the spa, Rodrigues refuses. “It’s called The Spa for Men for a reason. That would just defeat the purpose.”

Mommy and Me

Nilla Petta, founder of Sunny Mummy Spa and Boutique in Toronto, has managed to run a successful spa that welcomes both mothers and their children. The spa is child friendly, and provides a calm and relaxing environment to clients.

Sunny Mummy Spa and Boutique hires Early Childhood Education (ECE) certified workers and offers complimentary onsite childcare to clients. Children can stay in the spa’s playroom, or they can receive services such as massage therapy and miniature manicures and pedicures.

According to Petta, today’s generation of mothers bring their children with them everywhere they go, and businesses must take this into consideration.

“Most spas do not welcome children. Because of this, mothers often forego treating themselves to a spa day. I accommodate the women who don’t have friends or family to watch their children, or those who cannot schedule a babysitter in time,” says Petta.

A large portion of the clientele at Sunny Mummy Spa and Boutique are expectant mothers. The most popular service catering to pregnant women is the prenatal massage intended to ease the pressure placed on the joints and ligaments during pregnancy. The postnatal massage is designed to address the issues following the pregnancy and delivery, such as body soreness and aches from carrying a child.

Targeting Teens

Among its many services, Gibson Spa and Salon, located in the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth Hotel in downtown Montreal, offers a package designed specifically for teenagers.

Surrounded by numerous universities and colleges, owner Arnaldo Ciarlelli says his location is prime for teenage clientele.

His intention was to create a package that accommodates the lifestyle and budget of teenagers and young college students: a package that is not too expensive or time consuming.

The length of the teen package is two hours and covers the basic spa needs of young people; this includes a facial, manicure, express pedicure, and eyebrow shaping.

The teen facial uses a line of products specifically formulated for teenage skin. Teenagers often have problematic skin and one of the main concerns the teen treatment addresses is targeting acne.

“There was a niche for it, especially in this city. It complements our mother-daughter spa package as well, and we often see our young clients returning monthly,” Ciarlelli says.

by Chelsea Shim | Fall 2011