WWD Lifestyle Monitor™ Article55
SPA SELLS - An enticing marketing concept that keeps growing

"Elements of the spa lifestyle permeate a lot of the media and marketing today." "The term 'spa' is being used everywhere," reports Anne Harding, publisher and editor-in-chief of SPAQuest magazine. "Spas are no longer exclusive, intimidating places; they've become much more mainstream, and elements of the spa lifestyle permeate a lot of the media and marketing today." Whether you are making a quick stop at a day spa for a manicure, a facial, or an herbal body wrap, or heading to a destination spa for a week-long diet and fitness program, there is a growing and ever-widening range of spa options available that share a common goal: The pursuit of "healthy living", as Harding puts it. Relaxation, rejuvenation, pampering and comfort are among the positive associations created by a product labeled with the word "spa", whether it be a line of skin products, bottled water, aromatherapy candles or clothing.

Susan Dunn® Spa Wear is a three-year-old apparel collection that has very effectively tapped into consumers' growing preference for comfortable, casual clothing and the booming spa market. This fast-growing line of spa-related apparel includes 100% cotton kimonos, turbans and slippers that are sold in hotel and day spa gift boutiques at the likes of the Waldorf-Astoria and the Plaza (both in New York) and at specialty stores nationwide such as Jacobson's, Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue. Using plush, absorbent all-cotton towels and soft, comfortable clothing enhance the spa experience, says president and designer Susan Dunn.

"We use only the finest 100% cotton fabrics," Dunn says. "Our customers demand products made with fabrics that look fresh and clean, that are absorbent, comfortable to wear and soft to the touch. Cotton has all these wonderful qualities and more."

Clearly, Susan Dunn Spa Wear meets consumers' well-established desire for natural fibers. Seven out of ten people believe better quality garments are made with natural fibers and eight out of ten are willing to pay more for clothing made with these fibers, according to the Cotton Incorporated Lifestyle Monitor.™ And the love affair with natural fibers carries over to items like towels: Two out of three consumers would rather buy an all-cotton towel from an unknown manufacturer rather than a cotton/polyester blend towel from a brand name, reports the Monitor.

Resorts that feature spas have doubled in the past five years, notes Harding, who is also the author of Home Spa (Firefly Books.) "Every new resort that is being built is putting in a spa. On top of that, the number of day spas in North America has doubled from 500 to 1000 in just two years.

"Spas are synonymous with the tools for healthy living, and that is very appealing to the baby boomer generation as it goes through the aging process," Harding explains. "Years ago, people associated spas with deprivation and weight loss, but it's now about learning how to get balance in your life and how to get rid of stress.

"Retailers have clued in to the marketing power of the spa concept and its strong associations with comfort, both emotional and physical. Last summer Henri Bendel launched its Spa collection; it was featured in "a soothing in-store environment…[that] caters to your senses with the sound of water, soft, natural colors, rich textures and gentle fragrance." Bendel's Spa collection includes apparel and "at-home products", such as wooden brushes, skin care and exclusive spa treatment products, designed to "make you feel great inside and out."

The clothing capitalizes on the spa theme by offering "luxurious options in dressing for casual times, for entertaining at home, for hanging out in style." Heavy on natural fibers, the fluid, uncluttered styles (pajama pants, boxer shorts, thermal cotton jersey leggings) are available in calming colors like azure, granite, loofah and pebble.

Even if you don't have the time or money to actually experience a spa, take comfort in the fact that the rising popularity of spa-related products will make buying your own little bit of spa in one form or another increasingly easy. Why not slip into the tub tonight with some foaming lavender bath salts? Your thirsty, super-comfy cotton terry cloth bath robe and slippers will be waiting when you emerge from the soothing waters…