Inside Fishmore Hall - the first Spashell

Fishmore Hall hotel in Shropshire has opened the UK’s first Spashell eco-modular spa. Amanda Pauley finds out how the concept is making spa more accessible

Laura Penman, owner of luxury hotel Fishmore Hall in Ludlow, Shropshire, is the first UK hotelier to invest in Spashell – a new modular spa concept that uses pod-building technology to create free-standing spas. Created by consultancy Spa Creators, which has designed traditional spas in converted or refurbished buildings for more than eight years, Spashell gives hotel operators with no knowledge of the industry access to the elements required to create a successful spa, adding an additional revenue stream to their business.

The concept’s functionality is what initially drew Penman to it: “Before we had a one-treatment-room log cabin in the garden, which was serviced by a salon in town, but we were pinned down by their staffing issues. We needed flexibility to look after our guests the way they wanted to be looked after but didn’t have room in the hotel to do so.”

Bespoke service
Alistair Johnson, founder and managing director of Spa Creators, was convinced he had the right solution for Penman: “Some independent hotel operators know nothing about running a spa so I wanted to simplify the process, provide a simple solution for Penman: “Some independent hotel operators know nothing about running a spa so I wanted to simplify the process, provide a simple solution for businesses such as Fishmore Hall.”

The company created a customised Spashell for the hotel – with only four treatment rooms instead of the original modular options of six or eight – because of the limited space available outside the property. The premanufactured spa was delivered in sections on seven lorries before being craned into place and,

The minimal business disruption was a big incentive for Penman. “We’re on a tiny site here – 1.8 acres – so you can’t hide builders or two years of spa development. Having all the building work completed off-site was a massive benefit,” she says. “Plus, the building is portable; it doesn’t have traditional foundations, so you can lease it. It’s an operating lease, so in five years I will have bought the building.”

At 1,500sq ft, the horseshoe-shaped building houses an impressive amount of facilities, including a mainreception and retail pod, steam room and sauna pod, a unisex changing room pod, outdoor Cedar Wood hot tub and relaxation area, experience showers and four treatment rooms.

Personal style
Each treatment space has its own sound system with three different channels, dimmable lights, underfloor heating and Living Earth Crafts treatment beds, which cost between £4,500 and £5,000 each. “Our view is that the couch is the one thing guests are really going to experience apart from the therapist, so we wanted the best,” says Johnson.

A lot of effort also went into the interior design, which mirrors the hotel’s soft décor to provide a seamless experience for guests. “I often get asked how much input I had into the interior design and the truth is not a lot, but I didn’t have to,” explains Penman. “Alistair came in, saw that we are all about neutrals and clean lines, and created a mood board that summed up our style.”

The interior design and spa supplies come as part of any Spashell package. “The shell of the building stays the same but the interior will be different for every hotelier. If we were working on a coastal property, for example, we would work more towards a coastal theme,” explains Johnson. “It’s pretty amazing because to create the same spa via the more traditional route of converting an existing building would have cost minimum £1.2m.”

The spa offers three daily experience sessions for guests – morning, afternoon and evening. “It can take 36 people per day, so at maximum occupancy we would expect it to turn over half a million in a year,” explains Johnson.

When Spa Creators did a market analysis of the hotel, it found that no other businesses in the area were offering product houses Elemis or Lava Shells, which was part of their appeal. For Penman, the resulting retail opportunities were the part of the process that surprised her the most: “We’re a small hotel, so retail isn’t a revenue stream we’vehad before. It’s fantastic – we were selling products before the spa was even properly open,” she says. “From April to October, the hotel is fully booked but the other six months of the year we have to work hard to sell our rooms. The spa has given us a reason to entice customers during this ‘harder’ time because it has added value to their stay.”

Bright future
Spa Creators plans to open 10 Spashell sites a year, which will be a combination of six- and eight-treatment-room versions, plus a few custom ones. “We’ve been really careful about selecting our partners – independent hoteliers with beautiful properties and space to build the spa – to make sure we get our first collection of sites right,” says Johnson.

The company is also looking to launch the concept in Europe because the pods can easily be transported on a ferry. “In France we’re looking at 15- to 40-bed chateaus that have a swimming pool and, so far, we’ve found 40 sites across the country that fit that profile,” explains Johnson. For European hoteliers, the only difference in price will be the shipping costs, with the build and time on-site remaining the same.

Opened: October 2016
Size: 1,500sq ft (excludes outside spaces)
Treatment rooms: Four
Brands: Elemis, Jessica, Lava Shells, Mii
Staff: Four full-time, one part-time