Ms. Clarke

Spas, Health & Wellness

The Changing Beauty/Wellness Consumer in the US and Europe

By Jacqueline Clarke, Wellness Research Director, Diagonal Reports

I review the emerging beauty and wellness market opportunities and their implications for service providers.

Unwittingly, hotels have found themselves amongst the best placed service providers to benefit from the emergence of men as beauty care consumers. Men's attitude towards beauty care has been transformed over the last decade and has fuelled high growth rates in the professional beauty market in that time. Men now account for more than half of salon sales while a fewer years ago they were not even considered as a category.

This market has quite literally fallen into salons' laps as it was created mainly by the women who prodded and persuaded the men in their lives to use professional hair and skin care services.

Hotels which provide spa services have been able to take advantage of the opportunity to sell beauty or wellness services to men who already are existing hotel clients. These newer spas have been designed with male clients in mind, they have been able to customise treatments and services for men. The overly feminine ambience of many traditional beauty salons and day spas continues to deter many men from crossing that threshold and using the treatments. In addition, hotel spas are easily accessible and in a familiar environment which are key criteria for the male consumer. I describe a number of basic ways which make spas less intimidating for men

Looking ahead, we can confidently predict that hotel spas can also benefit from the next big market opportunity which is presented by the demand for anti-ageing and rejuvenation treatments.

Hotel spas are well placed to benefit from some major, but underreported, changes in the beauty services business. Among them the emergence of men and of the over-50s as important consumer segments. The rise of the male beauty consumer is good news for hotels because these consumers overlap with male hotel guests. Even better, hotels are already on the other side of biggest barrier that stands between men and beauty/spa services: crossing that threshold.

One of the most significant developments in the professional beauty services market in the North Americas and Europe (EU countries) is the change in the profile of the typical consumer. In brief, the middle-aged woman is no longer "the" consumer of personal appearance services. Though the single most largest consumer segment is women aged between 25 and 50-55 years, there are now other important consumer segments. Chief of which are men, and people aged over 55 -male and female.

The willingness of ever greater numbers of men to cross the threshold of beauty salons/spas for the first time is still a relatively new phenomenon. It is barely more than a decade, since the mid-1990s, that large numbers of men began coming into the traditionally female sphere of hair salons and beauty spas.

The willingness of men to use salons/spas that had catered only to, or mainly to, women is a global development, that is the same behaviour is evident in North America, Europe and Asia.

The salons that first attract men are those in highly visible and "familiar" locations. These include department stores and shopping malls that are close to workplaces employing large numbers of affluent, and image conscious professionals. Industry data shows that men's first port of call are the most easily accessible locations. For example, in the USA men can account for more than 50% in many mid-market salons, but this drops to 30% in the more rareified world of the upmarket beauty salons/spas. In France men can account for up to 50% of clients in tanning salons, but under 40% in upmarket beauty salons.

Another indicator of how familiar environment, and walk in availability can attract a high percentage of men is beauty business in airports. A US company that operates "mini-spas" at airports, XpresSpa, estimates that men are 58% of its customers.

The factors that drive men to use beauty salons/spas are much the same in the different parts of the world.

A lack of choice first forced some men to visit a women's salon/spa for a simple, everyday service such as a hair cut. The lack of choice was due to the many closings of that traditional provider of hair cuts for men, the corner barber shop. Many barbers close on the retirement of the owner because younger people are reluctant to enter the business.

But if some men were reluctant visitors to beauty salons/spas, others were very willing. Like their female counterparts, ever larger numbers of men have become more appearance-conscious. These men want a wider menu of hair and other personal appearance services than what is available in a barber's shop. Salon/spa sales to men trace their growing appearance-consciousness. Men are willing to spend on more complex hair cuts (and to pay the same prices as women pay for them), and, but to a lesser extent, on hair colouring, and also on treatments, in particular those to disguise hair loss.

Men avail of more than hair care services, where they are available. Increasing numbers now use skin care treatments, often those to rejuvenate ageing skin, back care (the so-called "bacials"), and depilation (hair removal) services. In France among the top beauty services for men are manicures, body hair removal, and facials.

A striking feature of any discussion with salons/spas about the rapid growth of male spending in their business is that the vast majority are adamant it was not the result of any initiative on their own part. However, they consistently identify the same people as the persuaders behind the male decision to enter the salon, those people are the significant women in a man's life (ranked in order of persuasiveness: girlfriend, wife, and sister-- mothers are seldom mentioned as important beauty counsellors). Salon/spa managers in cities as far apart as Seattle, Seoul, and Sydney, report: "Almost always it is a woman who brings them in for the first visit." Men require persuasion and support because large numbers of them regard a beauty salon/spa as an alien, if not a hostile, space. In Japan the first salon opened by the chain of men's salons, Dandy House, was in locations that allowed men to "sneak in undetected."

But if many beauty businesses did little to bring in men, many more seem to do little to retain men as clients. Indeed they seem to take their new clients very much taken for granted. Salons/spas do so when they treat men as an additional source of income, rather than a new consumer segment whose needs are not necessarily the same as the traditional beauty consumer, a woman. Indeed many of the features that make salon/spa industry attractive to women, can alienate men. A common theme for men is that beauty salons are too "feminine," "twee," and even "intimidating." Another complaint is that they simply do not understand, what they regard as, "beauty-speak."

Some beauty businesses recognizing the male dislike of the "feminine" salon opened male-only salons. The niche brands that pioneered this market, the chains Nickel --founded by formerly of L'Oreal employee, SPA NK/Space NK (UK), Eden (France), and Physique Du Role (Italy), Saurina Group (Spain) have been joined by bigger corporations, such as Sothys and Clarins.

There is halfway house for salons/spas who do not want to operate a men-only business. That is, where the space is available, to dedicate a section within a facility to men. This gives men the privacy that many seek. A separate area is not required for all beauty services, but it can grow sales of those about which men can be highly sensitive, such as hair colouring. It goes without saying that almost no consumers (with a few rare exceptions) will use any service that requires them to strip off their clothes in front of the opposite sex.

But even without opening a separate area salons/spas can grow sales to men. This is, if they implement a few, relatively simple and low-cost initiatives. One is to introduce male-specific services, for example in hair care "beard trimming," and "shaving." Very simply, they can put men at ease, by making men more comfortable walking into a salon to ask for a "man's service." Managers stressed that it should be very easy for potential male clients to identify that men's services are available in a salon. This high visibility is essential because most men don't want to hang around outside a beauty salon/spa.

The second significant change in consumer profiles is age. Beauty businesses now attract and retain a consumer in an age segment that traditionally exited the market, they are the over 50s. In recent years the over 50s have been a major driven in the market. They are the driving force behind a new services and product category: rejuvenating beauty. This category outperforms all others in the beauty market, in terms of growth rates, and profit margins. For example, growth rates are many multiples of those in the general hairbeauty salon market where 2005 sales were up 1.5% on 2004. the anti-ageing market will continue to be a growth areas due to the growing numbers of ageing baby boomers. They are affluent are willing to buy more expensive, because more effective, anti-ageing products.

The category is driven by technical developments, specifically launching in the cosmetic market of the high-tech products/devices developed for medical purposes (for example, the dermal products to rejuvenate ageing skin, such as BotoxTM, and also the new lasers for problem skin conditions).

Jacqueline Clarke specialises in global wellness market intelligence. Her particular focus is the de-medicalisation of healthcare and the medicalisation of beauty and the new market that is taking shape. She tracks market developments and changes in consumer behaviour worldwide to determine demand for solutions (products, devices and services). She finds out what is really happening in the market-place and obtains the latest data by working closely with sector experts – through discussions and interviews in their place-of-work. This valuable intelligence is then analysed and coded in-house by Ms. Clarke and her team. Ms. Clarke can be contacted at +353-4695-49027 or dreditor@eircom.net Please visit http://www.diagonalreports.com for more information. Extended Bio...

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