Sunday, August 15, 1999

Time crunch spurs boom in day spas

'Regular folk' pampering themselves

Gannett News Service

        THORNWOOD, N.Y. - Call it relaxation on the run. The proliferation of day spas in the 1990s has created the spa equivalent of fast food.

        Newly opened day spas across the country are reshaping the spa industry.

        No longer a luxury only for the elite, day spas are making massages and aromatherapy more accessible for regular folk.

        “There's a need for people to be able to take mini-breaks with the stress levels we are all under,” said Patricia Borza, owner of Serenities Spa in Thornwood. “It's not very often that we can afford to take the weekend or go away for three to four days to just do nothing. That's where the day spa fits.”

        In 1989, there were about 30 day spas across the country, said Stephanie Matolyak, director of new business development at Manhattan-based spa reservation service Spa Finders. Now there are about 1,600 in the United States, expected to generate between $700 million and $850 million.

        Traditional day spas are storefront operations with from two to five treatment rooms where clients can choose from a menu of services, including facials, massages, body wraps, waxing, manicures, pedicures and acupuncture. Treatments, generally conducted by licensed estheticians and state-licensed massage therapists, last about an hour and cost as much as $100.

        Day spas are popping up in all sorts of places to cater to time-crunched men and women. Hair salons have added small luxuries such as facials, manicures and pedicures to become all-purpose beauty stops. Many upscale hotels and resorts also offer spa treatments.

        Some health clubs, such as Equinox in nearby Scarsdale, also offer spa services so members can follow a high-energy hour on the treadmill with a massage.

        Charges are $75 for a 55-minute massage, $75 for a European facial, and $100 for a one-hour acupuncture session.

        In a survey conducted last year, the International Health, Racquet and Sports Club Association in Boston found that of the 3,200 health club respondents, 67 percent offered massage and 14 percent included a day spa.

        Lavinia Errico, owner of the nine-club Equinox chain, said incorporating day spas in its health clubs made sense since both are equally important aspects of a person's health.

        “Your physical, mental and spiritual needs have to be met in order to be healthy,” she said. “Out of that concept we came up with the (day spa).”

        Ms. Errico said that when Equinox first began offering spa treatments, most of the clients were women. Today, 65 percent of its spa patrons are men, probably because men have fewer spa options than women. And men may feel less self-conscious getting a massage or trying a facial in their gym.

        Baby boomers, who led the workout craze, are pushing the growth in the day spa industry. Workaholic life styles and the resulting stress have also helped day spas prosper.

        Destination or vacation spas are typically rustic hideaways that charge as much as $1,500 per person per night and require three-day to week-long commitments. Unlike destination spas, day spas allow customers to buy their treatments a la carte, which makes it more affordable.


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- Time crunch spurs boom in day spas