Spotlight on: The Massage Company

The Massage Company co-founder Charlie Thompson tells Amanda Pauley why his membership salon concept will revolutionise the way we view massage:

Co-founders Charlie Thompson and Elliot Walker launched The Massage Company in Camberley, Surrey, in March in the hope of changing the way we consume massage. The company’s membership salon concept, where clients pay a fee of £44.95 per month to receive a monthly 50-minute massage or £54.95 for a no-contract membership, is new to the UK and a model “not too dissimilar to a budget gym”, says Thompson, who hopes to roll out 30 such sites within five years via franchise (see Professional Beauty April 2016, page 13).

Clients choose their massage – deep tissue, sports, Swedish or maternity – and have the option of adding an upgrade of hot stones, aromatherapy, scalp massage or the Fantastic Foot Treatment (£5 each for members and £6.95 for non-members). “We’re not trying to create unique, signature treatments, we’re appealing to the masses. That’s why we only offer four massages and four upgrades that are all completely interchangeable,” says Thompson.

In the first six weeks of trading, the company performed more than 400 massages and 44% had been upgraded. “We looked at what we know is popular in the UK and put it on a menu that is simple and easy to understand. The upgrades have all been selling equally well,” adds Thompson.

Bare necessities 
The centre has 14 treatment rooms – 13 single and one double – situated across two floors underneath a Travelodge hotel. The rooms are minimal in design, sound proof and kitted out with all the equipment a therapist would need to perform the upgrades. “We wanted to make sure we appeal to everybody, that’s why the design is unisex,” says Thompson. After six weeks of trading, the first site had signed up more than 70 members, 40% of whom are men – “a testament to the fact that males are comfortable in this environment,” adds Thompson.

Thompson and Walker also worked closely with salon equipment supplier Ellisons on bespoke treatment beds, which have an increased thickness and unusual facial cradle. “A lot of people have issues with traditional cradles because they crush their face or ruin their make-up,” explains Thompson. “In testing, we put our faces – quite literally – into different types to see if they were strong and resistant. We went for a hygienic cover on a really comfortably shaped cradle.”

The massages are carried out using lotion instead of oil – “a medium that doesn’t leave customers feeling clammy or oily,” says Thompson. The lotion is hypoallergenic, paraben-free and, more interestingly, unbranded. This is because they want the treatment to be “all about the massage itself,” says Thompson. When clients opt for the aromatherapy upgrade, unbranded, pre-blended oils are mixed into the lotion.

Changing behaviours
The biggest challenge, Thompson believes, is getting clients to see massage as an essential part of a better and balanced life. “People make decisions based on their monthly income and our offering is a planned decision. Our biggest competitors aren’t local therapists but gym memberships and sky subscriptions etc.”

However, Thompson believes the concept can be a success: “10 years ago in the States there were no units like this. A similar concept launched and now there are 10,000. That’s the potential of what can happen if we get it right.” The company hopes to open its first franchise in early 2017 and Thompson says that from a facility perspective, it will be a non-high street, suburban location between 2,500–3,500sq ft in size.

At a glance:
Opened – March 2016
Size – 3,000sq ft
Staff – nine (six therapists, three front of house)
Treatment rooms: 14