The problem with “well-washing” in the spa industry
Having worked in the spa industry for almost 30 years, you could say that I’ve seen a few buzzwords in my time, with some proving to be more powerful than others.
Nowadays, it’s all about “wellness” and making the word work with our offerings, and to be fair, why not? With recession and competition on the rise, plus recruitment issues and increased product prices affecting business, adapting to trends is the key to any beauty business’s success.
However, the word “wellness” is now being used for everything and by every sector, and it sends shivers down my spine. My issue is that the word is misused constantly, even by those working in the spa industry, and this has led to “well-washing” – where everything is given a wellness spin to make it trendy and marketable.
Wellness is a 360-degree lifestyle that should be accessible to everyone. Wellness in a spa business should start with your customers and end with your staff, and the only way to make it happen successfully is to create a budget for the concept, which sees you take care of everyone around you. It’s only then that can you promote wellness in the ethical way it deserves.
Here are four of the biggest well-washing issues in the spa industry right now:
1. We’re not practising what we preach
I meet so many spa owners and managers on the verge of a nervous breakdown. They’re in survival mode and believe that adding “wellness” to their offerings will bring in more clients. They think wellness is more marketable.
Funnily enough in spas where wellness is promoted the most, it’s the spa managers who are suffering the most. The lack of support and free leisurely hours they get are a far cry from the wellness element they are shouting about, with many delivering an 80-hour week. Stress is the real buzzword in our industry at the moment.
2. Many wellness programmes fail to deliver
I’ve seen many spas and centres give up with their wellness ethos at the first hurdle, saying, “we tried yoga for our staff but no one cared, so we stopped”. When I probed, I realised that it was a one-off 30-minute session in January which was never followed up.
However, on the company’s Instagram, they had posted a photo promoting how great the working culture is for their staff. It makes my blood boil. Another wellness centre was promoting wellness with slimming treatments but, again, is this really wellness?
3. Ideas are made but not followed through
I’ve met with salons and spas that have created a wellness programme without the end game in mind. The message was mismatched and not in line with their target market.
It’s the same principle as buying a machine that you believe is going to bring you an amazing ROI, only to realise that your customers don’t want it as it doesn’t belong to your concept. So, it just sits there gathering dust, while you wait for the next best thing to come along.
4. Wellness should be accessible to all
Spa is one of the lowest paid industries. We talk about wellness left, right and centre, but it’s hypocritical when some staff are treated with such disrespect. I interviewed a young therapist who said she had spent more than £10,000 on training only to be paid minimum wage when doing massage treatments all day. Is that wellness?
Valerie Delforge is a spa and salon business consultant and delivers business training modules at the London School of Beauty and Make-up and via bespoke programmes for individual businesses, Her previous roles included head of spa operations for Steiner and general manager of L’Occitane UK.
Do you think well-washing has gone too far? Leave a comment below.