Putting wellness at the centre of spa experiences
Shared Beauty Secrets and Sensory Retreats founder Clare Anderson shares her plans for growth and what she thinks will be the spa market’s biggest trends
What was your background prior to setting up Sensory Retreats?
I was not very academic at school but always had the desire to help others and make them feel good. Becoming a beauty therapist seemed the natural path to take but as my journey evolved, I realised I was incredibly driven, and each job become a stepping stone to learn about every aspect of beauty, spa and wellbeing. I never had a long-term plan I just followed opportunities that came my way or that felt the right fit.
After qualifying as a beauty therapist back in 1993, I first worked as a beauty therapist for Champneys Tring, where I developed my knowledge and skills training in a number of product brands. While working at Champneys I was asked to be an ambassador for Champneys Spa on their first sea venture, working on the Oriana Cruise Ship setting standards and performing treatments.
When the time was right to return to the UK, I worked for Clarins in Harrods and discovered my passion and skill for sales, having a role where I was responsible for driving treatment bookings and retail sales was the next natural step in my career.
Three years later I was approached by Decleor to manage a team of promotional therapists and within six months of joining Decleor, at the age of 25, I had become national accounts manager for Decelor and Carita. After 3 years with Decléor I returned to Champneys, but this time as their group development manager where I was responsible for developing the skills of over 200 therapists and launched their hugely successful product line.
This role is something I credit as providing me with the comprehensive understanding required to launch a successful wellbeing brand.
My next role was as a director for skincare brand Gerards, where I was given free reign to make decisions about the direction of the business, allowing me to truly understand and be responsible for the finance side of the business along with the freedom to bring an idea to life.
Looking back, it was the grounding to make me realise I had the skills, knowledge, and most importantly the instincts to make a business successful which encouraged me to take the plunge into setting up my own company just one month after discovering the Lava Shells back in December 2008 and the rest is history.
How did you discover Lava Shells and why did you bring them to the UK market?
I came across Lava Shells whilst on holiday in Turks and Caicos in 2008 and I immediately saw huge opportunity to launch this innovative product into the UK market. I knew I had found an incredible product with Lava Shells being an eco-friendly portable alternative to the traditional hot stones and, with the patented self-heating technology, this was a product I knew had to be shared with my fellow beauty therapists and spa managers.
What I quickly realised was the potential of the shells and how much more I could do with them, so, acting on instinct, I came home from holiday and registered my first company 'Shared Beauty Secrets', successfully gained exclusive distribution rights for the UK and Ireland, created a range of treatments and launched our brand at the Professional Beauty exhibition, within just 3 three months!
That year alone I opened 100 accounts including world renowned global spas such as Bali Leha Spa on Necker Island. I’m proud to say that 13 years on I’ve retained many of our initial prestigious accounts along with the likes of Champneys, Bannatyne and Center Parcs.
Over the past 13 years Shared Beauty Secrets has grown from strength to strength, despite the many challenges along the way. Growth has been beyond what I could ever have anticipated when I first discovered the Lava Shells. Just recently, I was delighted to have secured a global partnership with Soho House who have taken our Lava Shell treatment as their core massage across all sites worldwide.
But it's been a lot of work behind the scenes, late nights working, it's relentless, it's not always an easy ride. We have now trained thousands of therapists in Lava Shell treatments. At last count I think the figure was in excess of 13,000 and Lava Shell treatments are available in over 2,500 salons and spas across the UK and Ireland.
What made you want to launch Sensory Retreats?
Sensory Retreats is the sister company to Shared Beauty Secrets and was created to take the consumer’s wellbeing journey to another level, with a collection of products that can be enjoyed at home, complementing our treatments.
The Sensory Retreats retail range currently features a luxurious collection of self-heating Eye Masks and our most recent addition to the range, our full self-heating Divine Glow Face Mask, alongside aromatherapy wellbeing oils and candles, treat boxes, as well as our exclusive Divine Escape Crystal Sound Healing music and guided meditations to further enhance self-care pampering sessions.
It was always my dream to formulate an innovative, holistic wellbeing brand uniquely incorporating all five senses that would deliver attainable luxury but with deeper transformative power. I recognised a distinct gap in the market to develop a new breed of luxurious, sense-based massage treatments and retail products, enabling the spa experience to be extended into the client’s home. The result is a range of deeply restorative treatments and home retail products that harness the power of all five senses: sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch.
What’s your biggest takeaway from your previous positions and how have they helped you in Sensory Retreats?
My previous background in product development is something I credit with putting me in good stead to successfully ride out our most recent challenge of the pandemic. Working with the product development team at prestigious brands, including Champneys, I received a grounding in new product development from inception through to successful retail launch. My previous roles enabled me to work directly alongside beauty therapists, chemists, and brand marketers, receiving a comprehensive education and knowledge, plus real time feedback in what it takes to launch a successful beauty product.
My background helped me appreciate the importance of being resourceful and determined in character but also understanding the needs and desires of your target consumer. That’s how I knew that ultimately, I wanted to create a luxurious yet affordable range of wellbeing products.
It’s no secret that the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021 hit the spa industry and my businesses hard. I had to rely on my resourcefulness, creativity, and my entrepreneurialism to keep my business (and that of the industry I love so much) going and to do my best to support our client accounts.
What’s been your biggest success since launching Sensory Retreats?
When I sit down and think about everything that we’ve achieved in such a short space of time I’m honestly blown away. Being approached last year by Vanity Fair as one of their ‘brands to watch’ was a pinch-me moment when I realised that people were beginning to acknowledge and recognise the journey we’ve been on.”
We’ve been nominated for numerous prestigious beauty industry awards, sponsored the National Television Awards with Lava Shells and our Sensory Retreats self-heating Eye Masks, been backstage massaging the artists at Capital FM’s Jingle Bell Ball and successfully launched on Live TV Shopping in Autumn 2021.
Over the last few years, I've been forced to think very much on my feet. I’ve been fortunate to have the support and trust from my clients and partners, family and friends who have ultimately shown their confidence in and trust in me and my brand.
How do you plan to grow and expand the company?
The challenge and goal for 2022 is to cement Sensory Retreats as the leading supplier of multi-sensory, self-curated experiences that can be enjoyed both in a spa and home setting.
I want to continue to support and bring innovative, luxurious but affordable products to the industry I love so much, which can be used to enhance their client in-spa experiences but also create an incremental revenue stream for their business too through a range of homecare products.
Training has always been of the upmost importance to Shared Beauty Secrets, and we will continue to develop our professional training with our exclusive training partner, Diamond Beauty Training Academy, and supporting our larger accounts with our central training team which is led by our international trainer Vanessa Franklin.
I felt very strongly about the importance of thorough training from day one of setting up Shared Beauty Secrets and certification in our treatments can only be received once a therapist has completed one of our own training courses, face to face or online. This is how Shared Beauty Secrets can ensure the highest quality of treatments.
We have a couple of really exciting developments this year. The first is the launch of Elfland UK under the Sensory Retreats brand: an online platform that is bursting with wonderful wellbeing gifts and ideas for kids, alongside woodland based experiences that focus on the importance of sensory stimulation, a place that encourages kindness and creativity and supports wellbeing wishes.
It was inspired by my daughter, Siena, who had dreamed of a place called Elfland and wondered where elves escaped to when they weren’t working hard making presents for children, Elfland UK also includes my first children’s fiction book, The Lost Wish, co-written with Emily Jacobs.
There is also a range of wellbeing products and Christmas gifts including Elf Eyes, our new self-heating eye masks which can be used by children and the whole family to help with relaxation and sleep.
The other news is that Shared Beauty Secrets has become the exclusive trainer of Lava Shells treatments globally. The success of the UK market promoted the request for an international partnership and our treatments and training will become the core standard for the brand internationally.
What do you think will be the biggest trends in the spa market in 2022?
The wellness industry is estimated to boom into a trillion-dollar market and return annual growth of up to 10%, which is great news for everyone involved.
It’s generally accepted that the Covid-19 crisis has made more people reconsider not just their physical, but also their mental health which has to be a good thing. Better health, fitness, nutrition, appearance, mindfulness, and sleep are said to be top of the agenda.
I think we’ll see the advancement of technology in spas, where diagnostic tools are used to uniquely assess, evaluate and ‘prescribe’ a curated therapeutic journey - something we stand behind at Sensory Retreats. There’ll be more body scanning and face mapping technology incorporated into providing therapeutic client services.
We have also seen a real focus return to ‘human touch’ and how important touch therapies are to both physical and emotional wellbeing.
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Clare Anderson isthe founder and managing director of Shared Beauty Secrets and Sensory Retreats, exclusive distributors and trainers of Lava Shells and Sensory Retreats products and eye masks