Spa Business is Booming in hard times

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Visits to spas are “more than just pampering; today they are essential to a healthy lifestyle.” During World War II, makeup was a morale booster for women, and sales of red lipstick skyrocketed. In today’s uncertain economic times, that same feeling – updated with a tony twist – is reflected in many women’s unwillingness to relinquish beauty services that make them look and feel fabulous. They might not splurge on fancy vacations or a new car, but they’re faithfully scrubbing, kneading and exfoliating away their stress at local day spas and beauty salons. “It sounds cliche, but when you look good, you feel good,” says Nancy Parse of Tampa, a regular spa visitor who works in marketing. “With that in mind, I don’t feel guilty for pampering myself during these rough times. In fact, I ask myself, ‘Why don’t I do more of this?'” Remove the cucumber slices and peel back the hydrating mask and you’ll see the international beauty industry continues to prosper, to the tune of $160 billion a year, according to London-based Economist magazine. Lynne McNees, president of the International SPA Association, says she isn’t surprised the spa industry is doing well. “One in four American adults has been to a spa, and 15 percent of spagoers are new to spas each year,” she said. “Spas are more than just pampering; today they are essential to a healthy spa lifestyle. The spa gives you permission to pause, and the public understands how important it is to take time for yourself, particularly during these challenging times.” Spas in the Tampa area, owners of spas and salons report that business is brisk, despite the downturn in the economy. They say loyal customers realize the personal care and treatments they receive are essential to their well-being and help them keep their sanity through it all. “When times get rough, spas are usually the last ones to suffer,” says Kelly Seeley, co-owner of SerenBe Day Spa in Temple Terrace. “Everyone has stress in their lives, but with all the extra outside influences – war, gas prices, elections, economy – instinctively, we have that need to nurture ourselves.” Seeley says she has seen economic cycles that caused business to fluctuate, but clients have never totally given up on their beauty routines. “After 9/11, we actually saw an increase in business,” she says. “People look to spas to escape and feel better; even if it’s just for a little while. And it’s still an affordable luxury.” Seeley says her typical client is female and visits monthly, usually for a facial, “because this is where the stress shows most, on our face.” Most women like to visit with a friend or in groups. They also request massages, body scrubs and pedicures. Louise Wachstein visits SerenBe regularly for facials. She says the benefits go far beyond simple pampering. “It’s very important to my well-being to be able to relax in a quite place,” she said. “It’s one of those things I just can’t give up. I know the benefits outweigh whatever sacrifice I have to make to go.” Germaine Gibbs, owner of AWA Spa in Tampa, says a spa visit can be an alternative to a high-priced getaway when the economy is bad. “Usually come summer, spa business slows down,” she says. “This year, that theory is completely out the window. We have never had a busier summer. Instead of going out of town on vacation, many clients are opting to stay in town and enjoy what the city and our spa has to offer.” Gibbs says a popular stress-relieving service at AWA is its signature Wellness massage, which includes a detoxifying foot bath, chakra balancing and spiral opening, followed by a scalp massage, foot reflexology and a full body massage for $135. Even those with limited budgets can pamper themselves by taking advantage of mini versions of spa services, such as pedicures, manicures and facials that are half the cost of the full service. Student Melissa Chamberson says she goes to the spa more this year than she has in the past, and it’s not because she makes more money. The 20-year old says she pays for massages, waxing and facials every few weeks to deal with the stress of thinking about life, a full-time job and being on her own. “I think I would go crazy if I didn’t have my spa visits to help relieve stress. Even if it’s just for a little while,” she says.