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Surviving the Economic Crisis

By: Cathy Christensen
Posted: January 7, 2009, from the January 2009 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

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Destination spas such as Cal-a-Vie, The Spa Havens, a 200-acre private health spa in Vista, California, that was recently named No. 1 Destination Spa in North America in Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best honors, may not feel the crunch at all. “We are a luxury destination spa, so our guests are in the upper economic strata, and I think people are cautious, but our type of environment is seen by guests as a necessity for de-stressing, relaxation and recreation,” says Debbie Zie, general manager of the property.

Many medical spas are not necessarily experiencing a huge lack of clients either, although they are seeing profits showing up in different areas than usual. Robin Bernens, RN, of Belladerm MedSpa in Maple Grove, Minnesota, admits that business is down a little, but she says it has affected the facility’s esthetic business more than its injectable business. “The injectable business is still growing—maybe the clients are trying to put off plastic surgery for a while,” she theorizes.

LaCour reinforces the idea that the bad times are far from over, saying, “Until the U.S. banking system stabilizes itself, which will probably be in two to three years, we have to ride the wave, which is the heaviest wave I’ve ever seen come on this country.” However, LaCour doesn’t think survival is impossible; it will, however, require a keen business sense and a thorough knowledge of your spa’s own history and trends to make it through. “If you look at your history as far as what has maintained your business to this point, it is easier to stabilize yourself,” he explains. In order to do that, spas need to go into survival mode … without appearing that way to clients.

Managing your business

Now may be a scary time to be a small business owner, but don’t panic because your survival often is based on how educated you are about your own business, says LaCour. “See where low and peak times occur during the week, month and year,” he says. “Know the profitability of each of your treatments. Look at what it’s costing you to do your laundry—maybe there’s a different way for it to be done. Examine your payroll—what are the benefits you are offering your employees? Sometimes it’s a team effort to get out of it.” This team effort is something that is in full force at Tamara Spa + Wellness in Farmington Hills, Michigan.

“Little by little, my team realizes that either we’re going to work together or it’s not going to work,” explains Tamara Friedman, owner, who has required staff members to pitch in with the laundry, help with cleaning and make other sacrifices. But because of her efforts, she has yet to impose any layoffs, unlike other businesses in her area. “When the country starts sneezing, Detroit has a cold immediately because the automotive industry affects everyone in this area. Four or five businesses around me have closed up after 15–20 years in business. It’s so scary,” she says.