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Natural Foods Merchandiser

Spas and natural products industry need to work together, expert says

A Q&A with SpaFinder's Chief Marketing Officer reveals how the spa and natural products industries are poised to work together.

When cruising the personal care aisle at a natural products store Sallie Fraenkel sees products that would be a perfect fit for the spa world. When at a spa, she knows there's a good chance the women sharing the steam room with her shop at natural products stores. Ask Fraenkel, chief operating officer for SpaFinder, a media firm dedicated to the international spa marketplace, what she sees for spas and the naturals industry and she'll tell you synergy and opportunity—big opportunity.

Natural Foods Merchandiser recently sat down with Fraenkel to find out more about the spa industry and its growing overlap with the natural products industry. 

Natural Foods Merchandiser: From a growth and revenue perspective, how is the spa industry doing?

Sallie Fraenkel: The spa industry has recently undergone explosive growth and major expansion into new health and wellness offerings. U.S. spa industry revenues have grown 800 percent since 1997. This equates to sales of $15.9 billion in 2010 coming from the 22,500 spas in the U.S. That's twice as many Starbucks that are in the U.S.; this means unprecedented opportunities to the diverse natural products marketplace.

NFM: Can you talk a bit about the different types of spas?

SF: Most spas are day spas and together with hotel/resort spas, they make up roughly 75 percent of industry revenues. While medical spas are at 10 percent, they have been the fastest-growing spa category in the last 5 years. Destination spas and hotel/resort spas represent only 11 percent of facilities but they typically have very robust retail, so are important to natural products marketers.

NFM: How are spas evolving?

SF: Spas' major shift from a once-narrower focus on pampering and luxury to a mainstream wellness focus is a key driver and beneficiary of the explosive consumer wellness revolution. With more than 41 percent offering something other than wellness and fitness, spas are morphing into holistic wellness centers. The growing spa/hybrid model offers a profusion of traditional medicine, alternative medicine, cooking school, nutrition counseling and natural snacks and products in spas. They offer nutritional supplements, including botanicals, eco-living products and the local movement has become huge.

NFM: How does the local movement translate in a spa?

SF: There's a growing demand for treatments and products indigenous to a spa's location. You'll see it in farm-to-spa cuisine and treatments, locally sourced building materials and design, guests gardening and preparing foods, selling local artisanal products and working with local retailers.

NFM: Who is the spa consumer?

SF: The spa consumer overlaps with the consumers who shop at natural products stores and has many similar values and characteristics. For example, they are the LOHAS consumer who is dedicated to environmentally friendly and healthy products and services and wellness consumers who are interested in purchasing wellness goods and services.

NFM: How can a natural products manufacturer work with spas?

SF: The first thing a manufacturer should do is visit spas. Find out what they carry, what the packaging looks like. Then get to know spa owners and managers, the people who make decisions, and create relationships with them. Educate them about your product and offer samples. As spas expand into wellness—there's been a 50 percent-plus growth in the number of natural and organic spa product lines in last 2 years, spa employees are confused about ingredients. If you can talk to them about natural products and help them understand how they work, you will gain their trust. You can also speak at spa conferences.

NFM: How can a natural products store work with a local spa?

SF: There are actually many cross-promotional opportunities for spas and natural grocery stores to work together. Experts from local spas can do in-store demos, massages, education, make-up classes, etc. You can create contests where you give products and [spas] give treatments; you can share email/newsletter databases for promotions and marketing; stores can sponsor “high-touch” fun events at spas where consumers really experience your products and you can give free samples; you can get involved with national spa/wellness events like SpaFinder's Wellness Week. You can even offer a class at a local spa about how to shop healthfully.

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