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Cyber Spas and Tweens

By: Melinda Taschetta-Millane
Posted: October 17, 2008, from the November 2008 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

The other evening, I was catching up on some work while my kids played Webkinz1, this decade's answer to Beanie Babies2, on their computer. Suddenly I heard, "Check this out, Mom! We can send out Webkinz to the spa!" It didn’t take me long to get to their computer to see what they were talking about, quickly ousting them from their chair in front of the screen as I took over the keyboard. What in the world could a virtual stuffed pet possibly do at a spa? Well, apparently it’s “a great place to send your pets for some serious TLC.” Here, the cyber pets enjoy facials, pedicures and even hydrotherapy treatments in what appears to be a mud bath. Needless to say, all of the Webkinz in my household have had frequent trips to the virtual spa to relax.

Clever marketing? Indeed. And how interesting that this retail giant would choose to send the critters off to a destination spa, of all things. It tells me that today’s kids, tweens and teens are familiar—and comfortable—with spa. It’s part of their vocabulary. In fact, I’ve lost count of the number of spa-themed birthday parties my daughter has been invited to at the ripe old age of 9. In August, first day of school conversation with the fourth-grade crowd focused around which local spa executed the best mani/pedis, as they all stood there and compared their neon and bejeweled digits.

The tween and teen market is a huge up-and-coming generation for marketers. According to the International SPA Association’s (ISPA) 2007 Industry Study, nearly 4 million teens have been to a spa. These kids have disposable income and are looking for an outlet where they can spend it. Also according to ISPA, 16% of spas offer teen programs, 34% offer teen packages and 17% offer packages for children. Where does your spa stand in this mix?

This young generation helps to feed into another trend, as well: the spa-goers demand for high tech/high touch. In today’s society of 24/7 connectivity, taking a time-out more and more often means remaining plugged in. Some spas are incorporating wireless technology into relaxation rooms, offering cyber treatments and even providing light therapy to help those suffering from depression, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and insomnia. Some spas are choosing to take this a step further. Men’s Only Zone at Qua Baths and Spa at Caesars Palace in Vegas often shows sporting events on its two large screens—no need to miss any of that football action. The Asha SalonSpa at the James Hotel in Chicago offers headsets for its flat-screen viewers in the relaxation room. Roswell, Georgia, has a funky new “out of the box” spa called Spadelic that provides MP3 players for clients to chill out to during their visit, or jam to their own tunes, if they prefer.

These are all great examples that demonstrate how society is morphing to accommodate this new Millennium generation, which is completely plugged in and wired; along with its parent generations, Gen X and even Y, which are power-driven and tuned in to technology.