It began when The Woodhouse founder Jeni Garrett, who has always had a passion for the restorative nature of spas, was frustrated with the unpredictability of spa experiences and sought to create a business model with an identifiable name and familiarity of brand that delivered a revitalizing and consistent experience no matter where she or a guest might visit: A spa that would transform the lives of franchisees and guests alike.
The Woodhouse Spas Corporation has developed a dynamic business model that builds more than a partnership between the corporation and franchisees; it builds a family and this pays dividends for its guests. Just like any experience of coming home, there is consistency and tradition yet uniqueness to each location. To do this The Woodhouse first recognized they needed to develop a business model that could be replicated anywhere in the nation or around the globe. The model had to include a uniformity in quality and treatment no matter the location or regional uniqueness; although this is not unusual for brands like Starbucks or Saks, the synonymous quality in day spas was virtually nonexistent so The 99 Elements, which is the heart of the business model, was developed and implemented.
The 99 Elements outlines the steps that each employee of every spa must deliver to each guest to guarantee that the experience is uniform and expectations are met no matter which location they might visit. This creates a familiarity and intimacy that transfers from one location to another and extends the family concept from the team to the guests. The premise was to take the intangible aspects of an experience to the tangible in order to consistently duplicate services, products, and ambiance in every location. Of course, the first question this prompted was, “How do you franchise an experience?” This can be likened to moving from home and receiving mom’s chocolate chip cookies, which brings the intangible nurturing of family to mind through the tangible treat. Each franchise family member, by following these steps, ensures that no matter where a guest visits, they will receive The Woodhouse experience.
To ensure that guest expectations are exceeded with every visit, The Woodhouse has developed a number of proprietary treatments. Garrett explains, “Each of these treatments renew the guest with both a calming and awakening ritual and set the stage so that the full benefit of the results-oriented services, which are based on the holistic philosophy of treating the whole person, are achieved.” Unique to The Woodhouse, this is true for every treatment on the menu, from pedicures and manicures, to the full day spa package, which begins and ends with a ritual that uses proprietary signature aromatherapy oil: a scent so discriminate that Garrett says, “You can tell by the recognizable distinctive scent when a person has been to The Woodhouse.” This insures that guests will feel the nurturing care of The Woodhouse family and their commitment to every aspect of wellness, which creates a loyalty and retention of guests that is second to none in the industry, as evidenced in 2009 by a 29 percent increase in the number of times the same guest visits in a one-year-period. Another aspect of the business model includes a commitment to sustainability by using natural, organic products at all locations so that guests can always count on the same quality whether they are receiving the products in treatment or purchasing them to take The Woodhouse experience home.
In addition to product and service offerings, the model is based on careful site selection criteria. Garrett’s vision is “to have a destination type spa in a neighborhood setting.” This insures availability of regular visits, which becomes part of the guests lifestyle, which facilitates them in achieving total and long lasting wellness. It can be thought of in terms of a “third place” to seek rejuvenation beyond home and work; a pause from the daily routines and weekly demands of this fast paced society. The Woodhouse offers a sanctuary of high touch in a high-tech world; therefore “lifestyle centers” are chosen for their location which offers accessibility and convenience: Garrett explains “a lifestyle center is designed to look like Main Street America with coffee shops, bistros, and boutique retail. This aspect of the model has been beneficial to the franchisees by increasing customer traffic resulting in a guest following, as well as developing rewarding relationships with neighboring businesses.” Because the spas are located in high traffic areas it has allowed the corporation to grow to 23 locations in 13 states in a remarkably short time and The Woodhouse brand is now nationally recognizable.
Part of the result of the implementation of this model and its consequent branding, is that guests have come to expect certain steps and amenities when they visit The Woodhouse whether it is in their hometown, or if they travel to visit other locations, or they recommend The Woodhouse to someone who lives in another part of the country. There is the greeting, which is always friendly and helpful; the aroma that is diffused throughout the spa; the consistent marketing campaigns, products, and services; and then there are the personal thank you notes — truly unique for a franchise. Regardless of whether a guest seeks services at a spa in Texas, Florida, or New Jersey, he or she will be provided with The Woodhouse experience.
While the growth and new openings of many individual day spas have remained stagnant, The Woodhouse continues to see an increase in same spa service sales of 17 percent (in 2009), and a retail sales growth of 30 percent. Although there may be some franchise models with more mercurial growth, The Woodhouse has spent significant time and resources both planning and building a foundation and inter-spa communication and support, which has allowed it to dodge the bullet of an uncertain market. For example, one benefit for both franchisor and franchisees is the recent introduction of The Woodhouse Village that serves as a virtual home office, housing tools, and resources for franchise family members: it has blogs, and “houses” to enter for learning, and real time data and information. Perhaps most exciting is the full implementation of a system that allows them access to a library of marketing material that can be customized for the location of the spa, while still allowing The Woodhouse to maintain the integrity and quality of the brand standards — another aspect that makes The Woodhouse unique to the spa world.
So everything from the corporate office, to the franchise family, to the guest experience, to the “Village” concept of technological support systems, all support the idea of community and family. This helps The Woodhouse live up to its purpose of transforming the lives of its guests, employees, and franchisees. In fact, this can be underscored by the testimony Karen Torres, Regional Director for San Antonio and Austin, Texas Woodhouse Day Spas, “The Woodhouse is a unique company offering education and a vision of striving for excellence. Corporate is phenomenal and their support is amazing. They create a family atmosphere that pulls the franchise together. The Woodhouse is making a mark on the industry. We do want to make a difference, not only for guests, but for our professionals as well.”
The difference can be summed up further by Maurita and Bob Elias, franchisees of The Woodhouse Day Spa, in Kingston, Pa., “Our experience with The Woodhouse Spas Corporation has been wonderful. We have been involved in two other franchise systems and they do not compare with The Woodhouse. We have been so impressed with not only the knowledge and organization of the company, but more importantly the integrity of the people involved. We are truly happy to be a part of The Woodhouse Family.” This is the epitome of Jeni Garrett’s original vision of “You’ve gotta do what you love!”
The Woodhouse has shown that by taking an experience and creating a model that can be branded nationwide, it is possible to achieve consistency: from the first friendly phone call, to the distinct signature aromatherapy oil, to the handwritten thank you notes, The Woodhouse consistently adds a personal touch to ensure the best and most reliable experience possible in every single one of its spas!
Jeni Garrett has always had a passion for spas, and after a visit to a small spa in Texas, she was inspired to create a spa of her own: The Woodhouse. She dreamed of sharing her vision to establish the Woodhouse Day Spa as the most recognized and respected brand in the day spa industry, and to create a spa that would transform the lives of its franchisees and guests. Garrett researched the spa business and realized that the industry was fragmented and inconsistent. At first, Garrett saw this as a business opportunity, but soon realized that people really need the services that spas offer, as they can have a huge impact on people’s lives. She knew that Woodhouse would be the perfect opportunity to create a reliable spa experience that would take the perception of a spa from a luxury to a necessity. In 2001 at the age of 22, Garrett opened the first Woodhouse Day Spa in Victoria, Texas. By February 2002, Woodhouse’s menu of services was ranked 3rd for the “Best Spa Menus in America.” In March 2003, Garrett founded The Woodhouse SPAS Corporation and began offering franchises. Using her background in information systems and cost-accounting, Garrett built the foundation on which the Woodhouse model and franchise system is based. Garrett believes that the most important influence from her past was working with teams, stating “The Woodhouse people are the most important thing to me, and it still amazes me what we can accomplish when they come together.”