Male Friendly Spa

Written by Dr. Guy Lewis

Men are showing up at spas in far greater numbers than they used to. The International Spa Association in Lexington, Ky., states that 29 percent of spa goers are now men. Though the association did not start compiling the data until 2004, industry experts believe the number was probably in the range of 8 percent to 10 percent a decade ago. There has also been a steady erosion of men's resistance to what they once viewed as female territory, the spa.

This article will explore some basic, fundamental approaches to ensure that your spa is inviting and non-threatening from the male perspective to ensure that your establishment is capturing this expanding demographic.

The majority of spas are owned and operated by females and have historically catered to female clientele. Spa owners and managers have fashioned their spas with this awareness in mind. A man has a different visual approach to objects as processed by their optical cortex as well as their aesthetic experiences. A male spa attendee tends to enjoy the ability to relax and have particular "objective" needs met by their visit. Women, on the other hand, enjoy the more "subjective" experience of being pampered and taken care of. These are among the findings of a national survey of 2,767 spa users from 36 spas by Pompano Beach, Florida-based spa consulting firm, Health Fitness Dynamics. In this study 60 percent of men in the study go to the spa to have a massage and when asked why they go to spas, 41 percent of men say they visit when they are stressed. However, 26 percent say they visit when they "feel like splurging" (compared to 45 percent of women), and only 19 percent "to take care of [themselves]" versus 39 percent of women.

After using a spa, this particular study found that males do not seem to value the experience as much as women. Thirty percent say they want to return afterwards, versus 50 percent of women. In some cases, this may mean the spa did not deliver its promise in terms of guest service, creating a wonderful experience, having a well-maintained and well-staffed spa, or being "male-friendly." This finding strongly suggests that it is not only important to get men in the door of your spa, but also to understand the nuances of this growing market so that they will want to return, and then tell their friends about the experience.

As in any business model, it is to your advantage to build a business plan addressing the need to create change in order to build your clientele. With this in mind, the following categories will be addressed: assessment, aesthetic awareness, nomenclature, services, comfort, and hierarchy of services.

Assessment:

In general, people do not change for less than what they have. People may change for the same as what they have and they will certainly change for more. With this in mind, it is important to assess what type of change you will embrace to create furthering the success of your business. The market for male attendance is a given; the challenge becomes how to make you spa attractive to this population. Assess what the particular needs of your male community is by doing some random sampling of the population. This can easily be achieved by utilizing a convenience sample comprised of a cross sectional representation of your populace. Also assess what services other spas in your area are offering exclusively designed for men, and what has proven to be successful. You do not have to reinvent the wheel; rather you can capitalize on all information that has been gathered by utilizing spa demographic indices, attending seminars at conventions devoted to this subject, and browsing the internet. After accumulating all the pertinent data, further assess how much you are able to accommodate the necessary changes, if any, in order to realize your goals.

Aesthetic Awareness:

When looking at the exterior and interior of your establishment, ask yourself whether or not the visual appearance may be inviting or intimidating to a man.As stated earlier, many spas have historically catered to women and therefore the external and internal appearance may be viewed as "feminine". Men are often intimidated by what they perceive as something that is "for women" only. This fact is certainly true in packaging products for the male market. Consider your spa as a product and challenge yourself, as well as your staff to see the spa experience through a male perspective. Some questions you may want to ask are: if you were to drive by your place of business what would you believe it to be and what type of services would be available? Is the visual response of the exterior and interior of your spa (such as signage, color schemes, and furnishings) at the minimum, "neutral"? Are there magazines and periodicals specifically addressing the interest of a man readily available? What are the colors of your aesthetician's uniforms?Is the spa menu devoted to men's services, or does the menu include a male grooming section?What type of music is playing over the system, and what type of ambiance are you attempting to create with this music? If there are television monitors running, what is on the screen? In other words, if you are a male, would you feel "comfortable enough" to enter, sit, and absorb the ambient environment while awaiting your service?

Nomenclature:

Nomenclature is defined as a system of names assigned to objects or items in a particular science or art (Encarta dictionary). The system of assigning names to the spa experience is in the midst of a transition and language that has been traditionally defined by women for women, needs to be adjusted to include the male clientele. A change in language used in the spa industry to name treatments can lower the confusion as well as the inherent anxiety of a first time male spa experience. It is an old, but valid expression that" it is not what you say but how you say it ". When coming to a spa, a man has a psychological need to see and feel something that makes sense to him in not only the aesthetic experience, but the signage and offerings available to him. Take an in-depth look at the manner in which you state your business and its practices. Signage and usage of terminology may be in need of updating in order to stay current with the changes in the demographic population taking place in the spa industry. For example, something as simple as what the industry refers to a "manicure" may be perceived as a treatment for women by a man and could be described as a "hand toning" or "hand makeover". A "European facial" as well may sound like a feminine service to many men and therefore, the spa owner or manager should consider revising the name given to this procedure. By neutralizing or renaming male specific procedures, the spa is extending a gesture that recognizes the social and psychological needs of men. The overall gestalt for a male client's initial experience needs to be calming and directive so that an inviting, rather than an intimidating encounter is experienced. Terms such as calming and soothing may need to be adjusted to restorative and enhancing. The intent here isn't to make all nomenclature masculine, rather to make it male friendly, or better stated, neutral.

Service:

The age old challenge of every business owner is to create something unique that creates a niche so that people are attracted to your offerings. When going out to dinner people open a menu and expect to see something that appeals to them automatically. If they have to ask the server what every offering is, everyone gets tired and disinterested. There are a couple of approaches to addressing this issue. Firstly, one can "neutralize" the menu. Men are not interested nor enticed by fancy language on a spa menu.As a matter of fact, it may turn them off to your establishment. By neutralizing your menu you address both the needs as well as the wants of your male clientele. Secondly, you may commit to a menu specifically for males, written in their language. Generally speaking, men are not going to spend the whole morning or afternoon at the spa indulging in various treatments. This being said, it is to your benefit to be clear, concise, and directive with the services you offer men. There are generational considerations of your male clientele as well. Those men in their 20s or 30s are more spa savvy and may opt for services which are newer to the spa industry. At the other end of the spectrum, a male who is in his 60s may choose those services which are more traditional. Earlier it was noted that by going to a spa women wanted to improve appearance and were comfortable with pampering; men saw a spa treatment as a means to a practical end, therefore, utilize a proven business technique of management by objectives. This technique involves asking the client what specific needs he wants addressed and what his desired outcome is. By employing this method, aestheticians can assess whether or not the needs have been met. It should be noted that generally, men are less prone to freely offer this information. If it is found that the client is satisfied with the outcome, both parties are happy. If the client is unsatisfied with the outcome, adjustments can be made to accommodate their needs. Be very clear with a man as to the outcome of particular treatments, especially if they are first time spa-goers or new to the experience.

Comfort:

The majority of spas that include services for men are presently male/female spas, however, there is a growing trend of spas specifically designed and designated as male spas. Whenever both males and females are sharing a common area (such as reception, lounge/rest area), considerations must be made for the social comfort of both sexes. It is important in the first telephonic contact to explain to the male caller the nature of the services and the shared space. By doing so, the client has already prepared himself for the communal nature of your spa. Once at the spa it should be noted by the person in the reception area that, especially during the first visit, men may feel awkward and need guidance and reassurance, Again, as noted earlier, spas have long been the domain of women and although stereotypical behaviors and archetypes are eroding, there still exists a skewed perception of the spa experience. If possible, a treatment room can be designated as a male specific or neutral space. Care should be given to the areas mentioned earlier in the article as to the aesthetics of this space. Another consideration in providing a comfortable environment for men is to rethink the spa wear provided to male clients. Research cited earlier in this article found that men felt comfortable with a men's spa wrap and T shirt in a dual sex setting. In an all male environment, they felt comfortable wearing robes. By having both wraps and robes available, your spa is acknowledging that men have needs that are separate and apart from women.

Hierarchy of services:

It has been shown that men may need more guidance and recommendations in selecting services than females when attending a spa. As a rule, women tend to be more directive when requesting services than men. Men tend to be information seekers when it comes to determining what particular spa services they are either in need of or wish to have. Generally, when a male client is new to the spa experience and is unfamiliar with your list of services, begin his treatment with basic services. This process may include a massage and basic facial. During these procedures it is appropriate for the aesthetician to inform the client of additional services that he may want to try on his next visit. Men are more reluctant than women to "go for it" on the initial visits. Although men may not have as many services during one given visit at the spa, they are very loyal and consistent clients when they are given the information they need to make informed decision on the skin care needs.

Conclusion:

The well proven adage "if you build it, they will come" is very true when it comes to increasing your client base by addressing the needs of men. The task may be much easier than thought by simply stepping back and taking a comprehensive assessment of your establishment and practicing the processes inherent in change. Firstly, ask yourself if there is a population to serve. Secondly, ask yourself is this process "doable" for you and your location. Thirdly, if both the first and second answers are yes, then do it. You need not reinvent the wheel in this process, rather build upon and enhance findings that have proven to be successful profit generators by your colleagues. In an ever changing and challenging world, men are seeking out the solace and comfort of spa services and spa owners and managers need to be up to speed on the burgeoning trend.

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