Barbershop morphs into ‘grooming lounge’
You’d walk in, nod at the barber and sit down with an outdated magazine that had a deer or a muscle car on its cover. Maybe you’d grab a Nehi soda from the drink machine while you waited. If you’re of a certain age, you might have heard the buzzing of clippers shaping a crew cut.
The waiting-room experience at Razors a men spa in Richmond‘s Shockoe Slip is a little different. There, clients enjoy a complimentary glass of beer or wine and relax in oversized leather club chairs.
And instead of listening to a transistor radio, clients can watch sports on a 46-inch flat-screen television set.
The differences don’t stop there. Along with razor-cut haircuts and straight-razor shaves, Razors, which opened for business in January 2007, offers manicures, pedicures, waxing and therapeutic massages.
Sounds like a salon and day spa, right? Owner Chris “Bo” Taylor prefers to call his establishment “a grooming lounge for men.”
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However you describe it, men are learning to enjoy the services offered by day spas. In 2006, men accounted for 31 percent of the client base of all spas (including day spas) in the United States, up from 20 percent in 2001, according to the International Spa Association.
The association defines a day spa as a spa offering a variety of professionally administered spa services to clients on a day-use basis. By contrast, visits to destination spas, which offer many of the same services in a hotel or resort setting, last more than a day.
“Men realize that spas are not just about pampering but a necessity to living a healthy lifestyle, and they are making spa visits a regular part of their wellness routine,” says Lynne McNees, the association’s president.
Razors owner Taylor has his own theory about the growing trend.
“With cell phones and PDAs making it hard to get away from work, there’s a push for men to set aside 30 minutes they can enjoy,” he says. “This is a relaxing environment.”
In today’s troubled economy, reducing stress is especially important,
McNees points out, and many spas are offering services with shorter durations — say, 50 minutes as opposed to 80 — to help clients relax without straining their budgets.
“Many spas are offering packages that are discounted up to 20 percent and giving group discounts,” she says.
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Haircuts and shaves make up the majority of Razors’ business, but spa services account for 20 percent of its sales, and they are increasing.
“The industry overall is growing,” Taylor says. “It’s a lot less taboo for men to take care of themselves and have proper grooming. We’ve certainly grown in the last year.” Taylor’s clients are typically businessmen and lawyers who work downtown.
To attract repeat customers, he has offered discounts to employees of downtown businesses such as The Martin Agency as well as some banks and law firms. “The response has been fantastic,” Taylor says.
Chris Authier, who works for a technology firm downtown, has been visiting Razors once a week since January. Initially, he went for a haircut and a shoeshine. Then the stylists talked him into a manicure.
In time, Authier, who had never been to a day spa, began to partake of Razors’ day spa services.
“The massages and haircuts are great,” he says. “It’s the difference between a haircut and a haircut preceded by a hot towel and a shoulder massage.”
Authier has recommended Razors to several friends. “It’s a great place for social networking, especially for people who are new to the city.”
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Day spas for men are still relatively rare, making up a small percentage of the 11,736 day spas in the U.S. (According to the spa association’s 2007 Spa Industry Study, day spas represent 80 percent of all spas.)
Taylor got the idea for his men-only establishment after hearing about the Grooming Lounge in Washington.
“There are a couple businesses that cater exclusively to men in Washington, D.C., and a couple in Raleigh, North Carolina,” he says. “And one is opening up in Virginia Beach. But mine is the only one in Richmond.”
Several day spas in the greater Richmond area offer services to men as well as women, though, and business is booming.
Annette Smothers, master esthetician at Ava’s Day Spa in western Henrico County, says her male client base has doubled in the past year, and it continues to grow. Currently, men make up 15 percent of her business.
“Men are taking better care of themselves in general,” Smothers says. “And they’re more concerned about their skin looking good.”
Education is a key part of many men’s visits to Ava’s, Smother adds. “They ask more questions than the women they come in with.”
The tricky step is getting men in the door, says Jill Roberts, spa manager for Legends Salon and Day Spa in Carytown.
“A lot of times, they’re shy,” she says. “But if a wife or a girlfriend gives them a gift certificate, they’ll get hooked faster than women will.”
Legends’ employees encourage the day spa’s female clients to buy gift certificates for their husbands and boyfriends, and it also runs ads targeted to men in the days leading up to Father’s Day.
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The number of men visiting Legends has increased in the past three years, Roberts says, and men now account for nearly half of the clientele. The day spa frequently offers discounts to military personnel, which has proved popular with the growing population at Fort Lee.
Among the most popular spa services for men are deep-tissue massages and facials.
“A lot of times, men exfoliate too much through shaving, and facials help to calm and soothe the skin,” Roberts says. “For waxing, it’s backs and the middle of the brow, and lately I have seen chests becoming a lot more popular.”
Recently, Roberts gave a 65-year-old man his first pedicure.
“His daughter had given him a gift certificate, and he came in with his wife,” she says. “He loved it — and as he left, he re-booked.”