The spa sector has struggled through three different lockdowns in the past year. Now, finally, spas are opening up again. But after a year spent almost entirely out-of-commision, the comeback won’t be easy.
Shifting regulations and mandatory closures have made the year challenging for everyone in the UK, but the spa sector is one of those which has been most heavily affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. 92.3% of the spa industry reported that COVID-19 had had a severe or significant impact on their business [UK Spa Association].
Now that spa doors are open once more, how will the sector pick up the pieces and adjust to a new normal?
How will the spa sector make a comeback post-COVID?
There are three key dates that anyone running a spa business should bear in mind:
- April 12th - On this date, indoor leisure facilities were able to re-open, “but only for use by people on their own or in household groups” [UK Government]. Restrictions around social distancing and mask-wearing remained in place.
- May 17th - On this date, spa franchises will be able to serve food and drink indoors, saunas and steam rooms will be able to re-open, and overnight spa stays will be permitted. You’ll also be able to visit the space in a group of six or a two-household group.
- Not before June 21st - Venues like nightclubs will be able to re-open, limits on social contact will end, and life will return largely to normal. It’s hoped that restrictions around social distancing and mask-wearing could be removed at this point, though nothing is guaranteed.
Due to the nature of the job, those running a spa business/franchise have always had to adhere to strict hygiene protocols. However, things have certainly stepped up a notch to keep both staff and customers safe. Here are the adjustments that spa franchises have had to make to the way they work in order to bring themselves in line with government guidelines:
- Hygiene and sanitisation. Hygiene processes have been updated, and hand sanitising stations have been added to facilities.
- Social distancing maintained in the spa, communal areas strictly managed. Customers from separate households must distance from each other during their time in the spa.
- PPE and masks. Staff must wear protective PPE, and customers must wear masks unless they have a reason for exemption.
- Card only. No cash payments accepted to prevent the spread of germs and streamline the payment process.
- Temperature checks. Some spas are checking customer temperatures in order to identify possible COVID-19 symptoms.
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- What the 'Lockdown Exit Roadmap' Means for Your Franchise With One Month to Go
- 7 Franchising Lessons Learned a Year Into the Pandemic
Customer demand ahead of the spa sector comeback
The spa industry, having been forced to close its doors several times in the past year, has been missing its customers. But have customers been missing the spa?
A survey of 5,000 spa-goers confirms that 80% will return to spas right away, or within a couple of months [Good Spa Guide]. This is a huge relief to workers in the spa sector, and it will surely be a weight lifted to know that the demand for a spa experience is still well and truly there.
Mike Ogden, spa manager at the Royal Crescent Hotel and Spa, is optimistic. He believes that the pandemic has made people prioritise their health and happiness in a very different way, and that many new customers will now be interested in investing in their wellbeing via a spa experience.
More and more people have been focusing on their health and fitness [...] Many people have missed the opportunity to enjoy luxury and relaxation, and I think we will see many people in need of some physical and mental TLC [...] So spas must be ready and staff prepared so that customers can be welcomed back to enjoy, relax and focus on their health and wellbeing.
Spa sector trends amid the UK reopening
Many spa sector franchisors and franchisees have taken time, over the past year, to reflect, rethink, and spring clean their business methods. Now, finally, these carefully considered changes can be put into practice.
Armathwaite Hall, located in the Lake District, has created new half-day experiences that will be available from the spring. Spa Director Roberta Griffiths is thrilled to be welcoming guests back into the spa, and feels the Hall’s new Spring into Summer half-day experiences will be a hit with customers [Wales Online].
Cheshire-based Carden Park, which actually only opened its spa in 2020, has used the lockdown period to invest in quality facilities, hoping to offer its visitors an even more magical experience than before. With a new fine dining restaurant called The Vines opening there in the spring, it’s likely that spa-goers will put Carden Park high on their list.
>> Read more:
What government support is still available for businesses in the spa sector?
It’s been a difficult year for the spa sector, and businesses of all sizes within the industry have taken financial hits. Fully recovering from the pandemic will take time, and will be very challenging for many. Here are the government support packages still available
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (open until September 2021)
- The Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme
- The Vat Deferral New Payment Scheme (open until the 21st June 2021)
- Business rates holiday for the 2020 to 2021 tax year covering retail, hospitality and leisure companies in England
- The Recovery Loan Scheme
- The Covid-19 Corporate Financing Facility
- The Coronavirus Restart Grant
- The Coronavirus Additional Restrictions Grant
- The Local Restrictions Support Grants
The demand is there, the doors are open, and things are looking up
It seems as if the worst is over for the spa sector, and franchisors and franchisees who have managed to weather the COVID-19 storm should be proud of their achievements. As spa bookings climb, and the industry returns to a stable place, there’s no better time to consider an investment. There are plenty of gym, sport and beauty franchise opportunities available across the UK.
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Lily Sweeney, Point Franchise ©