MEMBER PERSPECTIVES: EVENT EXCELLENCE
Spa Events Drive Business
by Jamison Stoike

Whether it’s a week-long wellness retreat, a seminar for guests or a holiday-themed open house, a special event can be a boon to any spa’s bottom line, employee engagement, brand image and community awareness.

While day-to-day services and retail sales are a spa’s engine for success, a well-timed and organized event can be a catalyst, infusing an extra dose of cash and boosting revenue long after the event ends. Spas who want to organize unique, memorable and profitable events often find willing allies in their vendors, too. This month, Pulse spoke with three ISPA member spas about the special events that they hold and how they ensure a successful event.

Broaden Your Event Horizon

Ideas for events can come from many places, but the most common source of inspiration is the calendar itself. The Biltmore Spa at the Biltmore hotel in Miami, Florida, frequently bases its events around holidays and days of note, such as Earth Day. For this year’s event, the spa hosted an aura painting with a local jeweler and healing energy specialist, according to Director of Spa, Fitness & Retail charlotte Prescott. “it’s a different spin on Earth Day,” says Prescott.

Part of why the Biltmore Hotel featured this particular vendor is due to a desire to “build on what was previously successful,” she adds. a jewelry-making workshop with the vendor last year netted the spa nearly $5,000 of jewelry sales in just a few days. Prescott notes that “people who took the workshop keep coming and asking about the jewelry, so the profit from that workshop has continued on and on.”

Previous events at the Biltmore Hotel have featured other vendors, including BABOR and Moroccanoil Inc. The Moroccanoil event, in which a Moroccanoil stylist provided a complimentary color protection service to any salon customer receiving a hair coloring service, was a two-fold success: in addition to the added benefit to customers, “it was also a great training initiative for the staff,” says Prescott.

While the Biltmore Hotel hosts numerous spa-centric events throughout the year, TallGrass Aveda Spa & Salon primarily focuses on an annual holiday open house as its main spa event. The event at the Evergreen, Colorado, spa is held on either the second or third Thursday of November. a variety of their vendors—Eminence Organic Skin Care; Iredale Cosmetics, Inc.; nuFACE and RAD, among others—typically come each year and set up shop in different areas of the spa, says Spa Director Melissa Rackliff. “The vendors are near their product lines so they can answer questions, let guests know about specials and provide samples,” Rackliff comments. in the past, nuFACE and Iredale Cosmetics have offered mini-treatments and makeup applications. TallGrass also provides guests with food and drink, and “everything not nailed down” is 20 percent off. Due to the spa’s long history and the extensive local advertising TallGrass does for the event, there’s typically quite a buzz around the open house. The bottom-line impact is sizable. During last
year’s open house, the spa brought in $16,000 in product sales and $30,000 in gift certificate sales, according to Rackliff.

At Fusions Spa & Wellness in Sylva, North Carolina, owner Jeannine Sowers organizes a monthly event whose topic changes to address a variety of wellness topics. Much like the Biltmore Hotel, Sowers sees these events as a benefit to both customers and staff: “We’ve partnered with Eminence, FarmHouse fresh and Inika Organic, who have provided training for our staff and demonstrations for our members.” ideas for the events are sourced from monthly brainstorming meetings with staff, but Sowers also turns to outside inspiration, such as magazines, industry trends and feedback directly from guests. “All of our events have an impact on our bottom line,” says Sowers. “Clients are able to bring guests to the events, and we’ve seen an increase in bookings from both the participants and the guests.” Sowers has also seen an increase in spa memberships, which is part of the intent behind hosting the events.

Beyond the Bottom Line

Of course, there are benefits to hosting events that go beyond an easily measurable dollar amount. Special events are a great way to present a spa as a thought-leader for wellness in its community, according to Sowers at Fusions Spa. Likewise, Prescott states that she wants people to “think of the Biltmore as their wellness source,” and that the events are the primary way to demonstrate that.

Prescott cites greater brand awareness as another motivator behind the Biltmore hotel’s partnership with
UHealth, the medical system of the University of Miami. The Biltmore Hotel frequently co-hosts events with
UHealth, including talks led by physicians and employee events for uhealth staff. according to Prescott, “these events are attended by the doctors, which gets us more exposure with a demographic that we’d love to have as members.”

A majority of TallGrass Aveda Spa & Salon’s events are charitable, and therefore aren’t intended to directly bring in revenue. However, the indirect benefits of the events are immense, Rackliff says. The spa is best known for its Soldier Box Project—an initiative to mail care packages to active duty military troops—but it hosts other events throughout the year, including a dog-washing fundraiser for the Evergreen Animal Protective League. “We don’t
incorporate any spa things into that event per se,” says Rackliff, “but we’re talking up TallGrass and have our TallGrass garb on. For us, it’s about giving back. The whole point is that we’re there, people see us and it inspires people to visit TallGrass.”

Secrets to Success

When designing an event, Prescott advocates a flexible approach, saying, “Sometimes we’ll start with a theme and build from there, but other times we may develop an event around a treatment that we like.” Prescott also views events as a way to “sample something or try something out that we’re considering putting on our menu.” It’s important to listen to staff, guests and outside sources when planning an event: all three ISPA members featured here cited brainstorming sessions with staff and direct discussion with spa-goers as regular contributors to their decision-making process.

Rackliff believes that an event must be aggressively marketed to be successful: “you have to put it out there in every way that you can, otherwise nobody will know about it.” She further added that all of their best-attended events have a philanthropic angle, a sentiment echoed by other
ISPA members. The Biltmore Hotel includes all of its events in its e-newsletter and markets them via social media. Says Prescott, “Events take time, and for them to be successful you have to market them, you have to plan for them.” Location is important, too: TallGrass Aveda Spa & Salon has struggled to host successful seminars and classes for guests due to its relatively remote location, so it’s important that their events feel significant enough to make the spa a destination.

Any number of complicating factors can make an event unsuccessful, says Bowers. The least successful event at Fusions Spa & Wellness, she says, was a meet-and-greet for a new staff member: “There wasn’t an agenda or targeted information, and inclement weather was also an issue.” Each factor added up to an event that underperformed.

“Who you partner with is important,” Prescott says, “because they have to be engaging.” once your spa has found an ideal partner for the event, timing is everything. The Biltmore Hotel threw a holiday bazaar one year that was a tremendous success. The next year, Prescott threw an almost identical event, yet it was poorly attended. The only difference was the date. “it came down to finding the right day to do it. it had to be early enough that people are
still excited to shop for the holidays, but also avoid Thanksgiving and other events.” Prescott adds that she has had similar experiences when planning events around other major holidays.

A successful spa event comprises many moving parts: a great topic, the right date, involved partners and sufficient marketing are all essential. Even then, some events may not go well due to circumstances beyond control. But when executed properly, as these three spas do more often than not, one-off events at your spa can be major revenue generators and brand builders.