Spas: Weak economy creates deals on feel-good services

June 10, 2011

There’s one industry that seems to have withstood the tough economy fairly well: the spa business. Maybe getting massaged helps us to forget what’s going on in the market.

Between 2007 and 2009, an additional 2,700 spas (including day spas, destination spas, medi-spas and more) opened in the U.S., bringing the total to 20,600, according to data gathered by PriceWaterhouseCoopers for the International Spa Association.

In 2009, the latest year for which data exists, spas recorded 143 million visits and $12.3 billion in revenue — all increases from 2007, though slightly down from the 2008 high-water (heh) mark.

All that spa growth is good news for those of us who love the treatments but don’t have Oprah-esque budgets. More spas are competing with each other, and that’s put downward pressure on some of their prices. The vast majority of spas offer incentives for new customers, loyal customers and customer referrals, says Lynne McNees, president of the trade group.

They’ve also re-engineered their menus to offer some cheaper treatments, opened some lower-cost chain stores and okayed buckets of deals from social networking sites like Groupon and LivingSocial.

If just reading this makes you want to get your shoulders rubbed with fragrant oils, read on. Here are my best tips for saving money on spa services.

* Start by paying 80 cents on the dollar. If you are a Costco member, you can buy a $100 pack of SpaFinder gift certificates for $80. They don’t always have them out on display, but go ask at the desk where they keep all the electronics and gift cards.

* Frequent the big spa websites, including SpaFinder and Spa Week. Both offer a variety of discounts and deals on spa services. Sign up for email deals and check back frequently for short-term offers that are typically put up for only a few days or a week.

* Sign up everywhere else, too. If you don’t want to get too much spa-related email, set up a separate email address just for spa deals. Then give it to every single spa you ever go to. Put your name on the list for spa deal notifications at aggregating sites like DealRadar, Dealery, Yipit and 8Coupons. As long as you’re open to trying different spas, you can probably get all of your services on sale.

* Check out the chains. A number of franchise and chain day spas have opened, often offering treatments for less. Some to try are Massage EnvyFacelogic, and The Woodhouse.

* Embrace the extras. High-end spas often have other facilities, such as steam rooms, saunas, relaxation areas and gyms that you can use before and after your treatments. Buy one treatment and then spend an extra hour or two enjoying all of the other amenities. This strategy can work for a hotel spa, too. Many offer all day access to pools, gyms and locker rooms if you buy one treatment. You can stay at the less expensive hotel down the street (or at home?) and simply go in for the afternoon.

* Watch the calendar and the clock. Plan your spa treatments for slow days (Monday and Tuesday) and slow times (like morning), suggests Sallie Fraenkel of Spafinder. And watch for special event weeks, such as Spa Week (in the fall) and Wellness Week (in the spring), when spas offer introductory treatments for $50. And remember that not every treatment has to be long to be luxe. Many spas are introducing quick 30-minute facials and massages as a way to bring in customers who are cash and time-strapped.

* Try something really different. A number of areas with large Korean populations are seeing the opening of Korean baths or spas, like Spa Castle in Flushing, New York and Spa World in Centreville, Virginia, outside of Washington, D.C. These typically are large, elegant and waterpark-like: full of a variety of saunas, baths and steam rooms that all come for a single all-day fee. Add-on massages and salt scrubs for typically nominal amounts.

* Buy the services you can’t do yourself. You can massage cream into your own face, but you probably don’t have the steam and sonic equipment that makes for a great facial. Some spas let you break out the individual treatments a la carte, so you can just buy those add-ons you really want.

* Tip well. No matter how low you’ve managed to cut the price of your treatment. For all the obvious reasons.

One comment

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Thanks Linda for bringing greater awareness to the spa sector.

This is certainly the case in the UK with the spa industry buoyant and demand for full body massages to ease stress overtaking the traditional head and shoulders. My further tip would be: If you want a great treatment at a great price then I’d recommend checking out, the world’s biggest website for beauty & wellness. has over 215,000 spas, salons, health clubs, therapists etc, absolutely everything you need for beauty and wellness. Also, with around 4,000 deals on offer at any one time there’s no excuse for any of us not looking and feeling good. I warn you, their MobDeals are addictive!

Posted by TraceyUK | Report as abusive

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