Express delivery

For increasing numbers of women, beauty treatments are no longer a luxury – they’re a necessity. Relaxing massages and anti-ageing facials are becoming essential parts of clients’ lifestyles, and they don’t want to spend all day over it. They need these treatments, but they also need them to fit into their busy schedules.

The spa has always been a place to unwind, relax and restore health, results that are not traditionally achieved in half an hour. However, the benefits of offering express treatments in the current market are too great to ignore, and more spas are compromising on that established ideal to boost revenue.

“I think we’re seeing more price-conscious consumers, unfortunately,” says Kim Allen, director of distributor Botanical Brands. “People have continued to go to their salon but they are thinking harder about what they spend their money on.”

Urban Retreat spa in Harrods re-launched its express treatment menu last September, after removing it from the portfolio some five years ago. “It’s definitely been a trend that’s been waiting to happen for a long time, and our client base really wants to have a shorter service,” explains Jo Harris, the brand’s head of beauty. The re-launch was partly a way to fill white space in the booking diary and partly due to customer demand. “We have a lot of walk-in clients here, and that trade tends to want to have something quick,” she adds.

Back to work

Harris is not alone in her view; her sentiments are echoed by many other spa owners and managers, not only at city spas catering to time-poor, working clients, but also in hotels and destination retreats where the clients have hours to kill.

“They are useful to fill shorter time slots and for guests new to spa who want to experience a treatment but are unsure about committing to an hour or more,” says Lina Lotto, spa director at SenSpa at Carey’s Manor hotel in the New Forest. “Guests who have not pre-booked and want an hour or more when we don’t have enough treatment space will accept a shorter treatment.”


Galgorm Resort near Ballymena in Northern Ireland offers express treatments in accommodation packages during quieter periods to help fill slots in the spa. “We also use them as last minute offers to hotel residents to fill late availability,” says spa manager Sharon Thorpe.

For Mel Finch, beauty manager at Clarice House, a day spa just outside Ipswich, express treatments allow her to offer clients a price point that’s competitive with discounted services, while still securing a profit. “We price our express facial at £36 and it’s quite a nice a starting block for people who haven’t been to us before,” she says.

Indeed, in the current financial climate when cash is tight, offering a treatment that is low cost but, crucially, also good value is essential to keeping trade regular. “A lot of our express treatments are very value oriented,” explains Harris. “We use things like hot mitts and lavender pillows, or we might give an eye treatment while we’re doing a foot massage. There’s a lot going on in the shorter treatments to add value.”

New faces

For Finch, the advantages of offering treatments at low price points are great. She notes an increase in new demographics of clientele trying out her spa thanks to the express treatment packages. “I have definitely seen an increase in ladies who are 70 and upwards coming in,” she says. “We even had a 90-year-old lady come in the other day. At the other end of the scale, a lot of 16 year olds and upwards are being introduced now. Proms are a massive business.”

Karine Veniere, spa manager at Re:Spa at the Reebok Sports Club in Canary Wharf, also admits to welcoming new clients thanks to the express treatment menu. Like Urban Retreat, Re:Spa has been offering express treatments since September last year, when it underwent refurbishment. Since then, Veniere says, she’s been surprised by the number of men booking in to the spa for a 25-minute massage or facial. “We have a lot of male clients at the sports club,” she says. “However, our male clientele in the spa has always been quite low, but now it’s really growing. I’d say around 30% of our express treatment bookings are from men.”

Veniere goes on to say that while Re:Spa has attracted new clients looking to try the express treatments, she has seen examples of existing clients booking these shorter services on top of their regular treatments as an extra treat. “Clients coming for a 50 or 80-minute massage on a regular basis will come for an express facial during the week,” she says.

She also notes that clients who once would have come in for a 50-minute facial once a month, will now come in twice a month for 25-minute facials. With the right pricing, those two visits can equate to higher revenue, despite taking up the same treatment time. “At Urban Retreat, the charge per minute on a shorter treatment is higher,” explains Harris. “We’re generating more revenue by offering shorter treatments.”


Eleanor Monks, training manager at the Sanctuary Spa, agrees. She says, “Our 25-minute treatments are slightly more profitable. We offer our 55-minute treatments at a lower cost per minute to encourage clients to book a longer treatment.”

Quick fixes

Express treatments don’t necessarily need to be about offering a shorter, cheaper service. Allen says the Manuka Honey express facial treatment from Living Nature, the brand her company distributes, has been popular with business owners as an added extra in longer treatment packages. Finch agrees, saying that one of the most popular packages on offer at Clarice House combines a 25-minute facial, 25-minute massage and 25-minute manicure. Shorter treatments are an easy way to add value to a package, without reducing the menu price and with relatively minimal outlay.

“Clients want greater value for money,” explains Dean Nathanson, managing director at machine manufacturer Caci International. “They will pay, but they want more bang for their buck. The demand for results driven treatments has definitely increased.”

Indeed, delivering results is more important than ever for clients, and many don’t believe that should be compromised just because they’re only paying for a shorter treatment. “The results-driven facial is our best seller,” says Veniere. “It works really well in our environment at Canary Wharf.”

This demand for results has led to a boom in spa machinery that delivers quick fixes. Caci’s jowl lift machine has enjoyed massive success in its brief time in the market. Nouveau Beauty Group has recently repackaged its A Lift machine as a tool for delivering express anti-ageing facial treatments. Even Thalgo, stalwart of the professional skincare market, has got in on the action with the launch of its Eye Expert massaging mask last year. “I think what’s happened with express treatments is that everyone wants as much as they can get done in a short space of time,” says Lesley Wilks, business development manager at A Lift.

Don’t rush

Not every spa is as enthusiastic about adding them to the treatment menu, however. Some businesses still have reservations about express treatments devaluing the spa’s service, and it’s important to calculate a correct price in order to maximise profitability. In some cases, staff may need guidance in areas such as the correct amount of product to use in a shorter treatment, and laundry costs will increase due to the higher turnover. Similarly, spas will need to factor in more turnaround time for therapists to prepare rooms between treatments – time that does not directly generate revenue – and to sell those treatments if twice as many sales are needed to fill the appointments book.


Lotto says she’d rather her guests at SenSpa booked in for longer treatments. “For us, ‘express’ contradicts what we’re trying to achieve. SenSpa is all about relaxation and feeling pampered and unhurried. This is much easier to achieve in an hour, preferably longer.”

Harris says that express treatments were taken off the Urban Retreat menu several years ago because of the number of people turning up too late and missing their treatments altogether. Still, despite the potential pitfalls, there is no denying the popularity of these treatments with clients. “By offering express treatments our guests are given more choice within their day, which has made for a really positive response,” says Monks.

Some businesses are reporting high rebooking rates among express treatment clients as well. Finch estimates that the rebook rate at Clarice House for express treatments is in the region of 70%. And even if that figure is comparable to longer treatments, the spa is still benefiting from a higher turnover of clients who can potentially spend more money.

“Because we are doing more express treatments, we are obviously having more clients through the door, hence a greater uptake on retail products,” says Harris. “The footfall is greater, which encourages spend on other services or retail. Overall income is a lot greater.” 

Image credits: (from top to bottom) SenSpa; Re:Spa