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Understanding the LOHAS Market

By Barbara Howard
Posted: January 30, 2008, from the February 2008 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

Editor’s note: This article is part of a two-part series to run in Skin Inc. magazine on discovering and exploring a segment of people interested in lifestyles of health and sustainability—the LOHAS market. This first installment discusses new features, products and services you can offer that cater to this market. The next installment, to run in the March issue of Skin Inc. magazine, looks into crafting marketing, advertising and publicity strategies that reach out, touch and communicate your commitment to the new age of sustainability and prosperity.

As a professional in the spa business, you may already believe in your power to help change lives for the better. After all, you reach out and physically nurture clients. You are in their space. From products to procedures, you influence their decisions, and whether you see them once or work with them on a continuing basis, they are literally in your hands, especially if you have established trust with them.
       For many people, the anticipated spa experience goes beyond being pampered—they are looking for something deeper, more complete and in alignment with an awareness of total wellness. They are interested in the environment, sustainability, corporate social responsibility, organic foods and products, health and wellness, and a mind/body/spirit balance—and they take all this into account when they make purchasing decisions. These people are the LOHAS market.
       LOHAS is an acronym for Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability. Originally named “cultural creatives” by sociologist Paul H. Ray, PhD, and psychologist Sherry Ruth Anderson, PhD, co-authors of The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People are Changing the World (Three Rivers Press, 2000), LOHAS is defined as a group of consumers who make conscientious purchasing and investing decisions based on social and cultural values. They are more than 50 million strong, come from across the United States, and are age 18 and older. The LOHAS market segment in 2006 was estimated to be at $300 billion, approximately 30% of the U.S. consumer market, and is predicted to grow to $420 billion by 2014. Worldwide, this market segment is currently estimated to be worth $540 billion annually.

What makes LOHAS consumers tick?
       LOHAS consumers often are early predictors of future trends and cultural shifts, and the lifestyle, product or service life cycle often goes like this: LOHAS consumers become aware of products or services—such as green dry cleaning, organic products or alternative health therapies—try them, adopt these products into their lifestyle, become loyal consumers, then influence their families and friends to do the same. They are leading the way in sustainable economy, personal development, ecological and healthy lifestyles, and alternative health care. Also, LOHAS consumers are value-driven, and what is most important is what they have in common.
       Perhaps this is revisiting values of the past as values of the future are created. Consider that the 1960s generation was going to save the planet. Many families practiced healthy eating, organic, sustainable farming, and wholesome health and beauty regimens complete with folk remedies and homemade skin care treatments. From sunburn to poison ivy to dehydration, they looked to nature to provide a solution in either plant or food form, and the natural foods and products industries came of age. There was a love of nature, a passion for music, and the desire to make a positive difference—to change the world. Today, the world is reaching a new
age of sustainability and prosperity. Woody Tasch, chairman of Investors’ Circle, a San Francisco-based nonprofit network of investors, says, “Courage, vision and entrepreneurial acumen are unleashing a commercial force of restoration and healing—a new era of sustainability and prosperity, the likes of which the world has never seen.” It is clear LOHAS consumers are beginning to influence the way Americans do business.

LOHAS and spas—a natural fit
       At a recent LOHAS forum presentation, Jim Root, chairman of the International SPA Association (ISPA), explained, “The values expressed by LOHAS really do reflect the origins of spa. The beginning of spa was about sharing a healthy lifestyle. With 57 million American adults having visited a spa, the industry casts a large net—the spa world affects society, the economy, culture and the environment. From a human perspective, the spa world touches the mind, body and spirit through a plethora of engaging experiences that are focused on the whole person and their environment.”
       ISPA has created a strong sustainability statement and is cultivating a relationship with the LOHAS forum to bring new information, opportunities and education to its members. And ISPA isn’t the only one—many other industry organizations and events are also making a concerted effort toward going green, following an overall trend in the spa industry.
       Ted Ning, conference director and executive editor with LOHAS, says, “There are many areas of opportunity where spas can build new partnerships with like-minded companies in different market sectors.” He suggests spas get started by recognizing opportunities with businesses that hold similar values and by entering into conversations with an open mind.

Defining your spa, LOHAS-style
       Remember the lifestyle decisions LOHAS consumers make are value-driven, and their purchase decisions for products and providers of services are governed less by price and more by ethics. To position your spa within the LOHAS defintion, first identify that your values are in sync with LOHAS values. For example, are you dedicated to preserving the environment, reducing your carbon footprint and decreasing your energy usage? How about offering organic and sustainable products? Incorporating mind/body/spirit healthy lifestyle education and services? Giving back to the community?
       Prioritze your goals and define a plan of action before you begin so you aren’t overwhelmed when you do implement changes. You need to be authentic in this exercise, because the LOHAS market is so in tune that companies who misrepresent themselves will likely suffer. For these consumers, its not about hype—its about a true commitment to LOHAS principles.
       Ideas for various changes you can begin implementing include:

Green ideas
Reduce your carbon footprint
Recycle
Replace light bulbs with more efficient, energy-saving bulbs
Print materials on recycled paper with soy-based ink
 
Organic ideas
Use organic cotton sheets, robes, towels and slippers
Consider organic skin care products
Serve fair-trade organic teas and drinks
Use organic essential oils, as well as organic oils for massage

Corporate social responsibility ideas
Develop your own sustainability statement
Seek out ways to improve the quality of life of your employees, their families and the community
Get involved with community-based development projects
Give back to the community

Wellness and mind/body/spirit ideas
Develop a series of educational programs for your clients and the general public, bringing in experts on nutrition, wellness, environmental conciousness and other similarly themed topics
Build associations with nearby wellness centers
Become a sponsor of local corporate wellness fairs
Offer services such as Reiki or acupuncture

       And remember to get input from your staff members on your initiatives. Find out what LOHAS values are important to them and which LOHAS values are they incorporating into their own daily lives. Do they have clients who voice an interest in LOHAS values, products and services? Train them on the new values-driven corporate culture you are establishing, and enroll them in the new lifestyle by example, making sure they experience new services and products. It is no secret that when employees are working for something they believe in, they work more productively.
       Finally, make the commitment. There is power in commitment, and as you build stronger relationships with your clients, suppliers and community, your message will thread its way through the LOHAS web of inclusion and resonate with like-minded people.
Living a LOHAS life
       These suggestions are only a beginning. The LOHAS world is growing with more elements and opportunities all the time, so keep watching for ways to integrate the values and ideas into your lifestyle and your spa. And don’t underestimate the breadth of the LOHAS market. It crosses the demographics of age, sex, religion, race and a range of other types of people, so feel free to explore options as far as you can take them.
     Sustainability might be summed up best in this lesson from the Native American Code of Ethics: “Respect all things that are placed upon this earth—whether it be people, animal or plant. Honor the Spirit in all things.” Remember this is more than just talk—it is truly a walk. Start implementing the principles of LOHAS into your spa and your lifestyle today.

To learn more about the origins of LOHAS, click here.