It's Raining Men

By Stacey Soble | 03/25/2008 10:19:00 AM


For the past several years, product manufacturers and salon and spa owners have anticipated and celebrated the eventual arrival of the metrosexual man to their doors. While the female market for skin care and grooming products may be worth about $95 billion annually, today’s male market is smaller, but growing twice as fast. And according to a 2007 International Spa Association survey, 31 percent of today’s spa-goers are men.

But if you delve into history, men haven’t been as absent from the grooming arena as many would have you believe. Think back to the male gentry who traditionally employed a manservant specifically for the purposes of preparing their wardrobe and maintaining a meticulous grooming regimen. Remember, the social venue of the neighborhood barbershop was where menfolk routinely gathered for a hot shave and a trim. And, after all, it was the men who used to wear the wigs, the
powder and the make-up.

If men haven’t historically distanced themselves from grooming services, they’ve definitely taken a long vacation. But whose fault is that? Over the decades, the burgeoning salon and spa market narrowly focused their attention on the lucrative female, while at the same time the traditional barbershop concept fell out of vogue. What was the well-groomed male to do?
Today, men represent the next great frontier for many spas. They are showing an increased interest in services, from waxing to facials to nail care; shelling out dollars for skin care; and seeking and listening attentively to grooming advice. And, according to those who cater to them, men make easier and significantly more loyal clients.

Where’s Your Welcome Mat?

Those who first captured this newly awakened male market were the spas that greeted men with enthusiasm and a willingness to adapt their business to their new customers’ needs. Little House Spa, founded in 1999 by Doug Coburn and Daniel Francoeur in rural Cumberland, Ontario, was a great example.

Over the years, the non-intimidating, log-structure spa witnessed a trend of more men requesting services and Coburn and Francoeur catered to that demand by creating the Men’s Den, a male-only lounge and treatment room that was separate from the other spa facilities.
When the owners had the opportunity to purchase the Bodé Spa in Ottawa in 2004, they turned their full attention toward men. “Where the traditional spa has a population of about 90 percent female clients to 10 percent male, we’re the opposite. We’re focused on the male client, and only about 10 percent of our clientele is women.”

That unique expertise has recently ushered Coburn and Francoeur onto the speaker’s circuit, as they’re increasingly invited to industry shows to talk about how to attract male clientele and how to design and perform services for this market.

Francoeur shares an anecdote from one of these seminars that illustrates how spas are opening their eyes to men:
“A spa owner stood up and said she’s tried everything to attract male clientele,” he recalls. “She said they added men’s spa services and were located in a busy mall that had many male passersby, but they weren’t drawing in the men.”

So, Francoeur asked her the following series of quick questions:
“Do you have anything in your window that says you have services for men?”
“Does any of your salon signage feature images of men?”
“Does your window display feature any male product lines?”
“Do you have a separate menu of services just for men?”
While the owner developed services to cater to men, she’d missed the first step of signaling to men that hers was a welcoming environment. “But creating that environment can be fairly simple stuff,” says Francoeur. “It’s as easy as painting a treatment room in a color that appeals to both sexes, using black or dark blue sheets for male services, or having magazines that appeal to men in the waiting room.”

Setting the Stage

Establishing a male-friendly environment starts with the name, says Serena Chreky, who with husband Andre co-owns the Andre Chreky the Salon Spa in Washington, D.C. “If your name is Sally’s Spa, that’s not very inviting to men. You need a dynamic name that appeals to both sexes. Let’s face it—Andre Chreky is a far less inhibiting name for men than Elizabeth Arden.”

Space limitations prevented the Chrekys from establishing separately designated men’s and women’s areas, so they chose a decor that attracted both sexes. “We’re in a townhouse and we chose comfortable earth tones with natural wood and leather materials—it’s very Tuscan in feel,” says Chreky. But the couple also found the limited space works to their advantage. “Each floor is very narrow, so there’s lots of interaction between staff and clients,” says Chreky. “Andre always introduces staff members as they walk by. For example he’ll say, ‘This is Ozzie, she’s our brow guru.’ Then Ozzie will invite that male client back later to talk about what she could do for his eyebrows.”

Lather Spa in New York also approaches decor from a unisex, middle of the road approach. “We follow the lead set by our custom brand of products—we’re comfortable, clean and full of color, including greens, teals, reds, oranges and yellows,” says Shaana Melendrez, spa director.
When an establishment like Metro Styles in Raleigh, North Carolina, targets only men, decor takes a decidedly more masculine
approach. “We incorporate a lot of cherry wood, with cool-type, blue suede colors,” says owner Tina Mclendon.

Room of Their Own

For the spas that cater to both sexes and have the space, creating separate locker rooms, lounge areas and treatment facilities has proven very successful. But taking a comparative tour through the men’s and women’s areas may reveal interesting differences between the sexes.
At Spa Space in Chicago, owner Natalie Tessler welcomes men by placing male-oriented product lines as well men’s clothing prominently in the front space of the neutral, urban-chic spa.

“Here, men have their own locker room, lounge area, steam rooms and rain showers, as well as their own robes and sandals,” says Tessler, who reports 40 percent of her clientele is male. “The men’s relaxation area features a big screen TV, while the women’s area does not. Women want to relax away from the television, while TV helps men relax. It gives them something to look at instead of each other.”
Escape can be provided in the smallest of places. At Lather Spa, the manicure and pedicure stations feature a small screen and a DVD player.

“Male clients can choose to watch episodes of Arrested Development, The Office, or Saturday Night Live,” says Melendrez. They can put on their headphones, which alleviates the stress of having to maintain a conversation with the nail technician, and they are able to relax.”
When Joyce Hampers opened Emerge Spa Salon in Boston, in April 2006, she wanted to encourage the slow-growing male sales she experienced at her 14-year old Giuliani, The Spa for Beauty and Wellness (which was recently rebranded as g2o.) “We were determined to take advantage of the growing trend by actually devoting a space to our male clientele,” says Hampers.

Half of one of the new spa’s floors—about 1,250 square feet—became The Men’s Club. Decorated with mahogany wood, graphite gray tweed carpeting, blue stone tile and brass accents, the Men’s Club borrows ideas from European gentlemen’s clubs. Like Spa Space, the men’s lounge also features a wall-mounted flat screen TV.

But what took Hampers by surprise when creating the space was a call she received from the Massachusetts Board of Cosmetology.
“We received a warning from the Barber Division that if we intended to have a separate men’s area, then we needed to apply for a separate barber’s license and have at least one employee who held a master barber license, which is a few steps above a regular barber license,” she says. “We did have a master barber on staff, but what really surprised us was we were told we also had to incorporate a traditional barber pole in the area to designate the space.”

Hampers tried explaining to the board official that the red and white pole didn’t fit with her planned decor, but she begrudgingly agreed to feature a barbershop pole decal on the window of the door leading to the men’s club. “Interestingly, it ended up being the opposite of what I was worried about,” says Hampers. “Granted, it doesn’t look great with the decor, but it does seem to attract more men with the mindset of going into a barbershop—it subtly tells them it’s alright to be here.”

Man Spa Mindset

What owners who successfully cater to men realize, is that the male spa client is a very different creature. Winning over men starts with making them comfortable in this strange new environment.
“One of the biggest differences between the sexes is that women find the spa environment a social atmosphere, but for guys it’s a private experience—they don’t like bumping into people they know,” says Francoeur. Located in Canada’s capital, Bodé is in an area surrounded by embassies. For security reasons, the spa was discouraged from posting an exterior sign.

“We thought that after the first year, we would have to move, but it’s worked out. Men like being able to duck in here without others necessarily knowing they are going into a spa.” That mindset would make one think that the all important word-of-mouth doesn’t exist. It does, say owners; it just works in a different way.

“Women still end up talking about our spa and raving to their girlfriends about the services their men have received. And men will talk about it with very close friends they are comfortable with, but are more likely to make a joke about it,” says Francoeur. “For example, a man might see how a friend clipped his own back or chest hair and tease him about what a bad job he did, then tell him how he gets his waxed and shaped here professionally.”

When a man does talk, he’s more likely to talk about the place and the atmosphere, rather than the service, says Jessica Hammel, vice president of operations for the franchised chain American Male. “For example, they are more likely to tell a friend how cool it is that we serve beer during their services, rather than showing their friends how great their nails turned out.”

Paula Cassidy, Andre Chreky’s spa director, theorizes there is one important loud voice singing the virtues of spa to men. “The advent of reality television frequently showcases men getting makeovers and being in the spa environment—it’s been a way for men to experience what’s behind those closed doors and learn about the services a spa has to offer.”

The Need for Need

Unlike a woman, who is more likely to dabble in spa for the first time out of curiosity or as a self reward, men are driven to their first-time spa visit by need. “Whether it’s a massage or foot care or a waxing service—guys come in here for a need,” says Francoeur. “They’ll continue coming in because of that need until about the third visit—that’s how long it takes the average new male client to be comfortable enough to be interested in what else you have to offer.”

For spas with prominent salons, the hair cut represents a comfortable avenue into the spa environment. At Natural Oasis Day Spa and Salon in Spring Hill, Tennessee, owner Marabeth Poole introduces male clients to spa-like services through a scalp massage and a mini facial at the shampoo bowl.

“We also incorporate hot packs on the neck and foot soaks with customized scents in our waiting area,” says Poole.
“If you ask a new male client who’s scheduled for a hair cut if they want to add on a spa service, they’ll almost always say no,” adds Hammel. “So we incorporate a paraffin hand treatment, a face massage customized with essential oil, a scalp massage and a hot face towel in every hair cut.” Those spa-like extras break down men’s natural resistance, while allowing service providers to talk about the importance of skin care.
American Male also offers a mini facial, which includes exfoliation, toning and moisturizing, that is done right at the shampoo bowl. “It introduces them to the facial service without making them venture into the treatment room,” says Hammel. “We’ve had a lot of success selling that as an add-on for $12.”

At Metro Styles, it’s frequently the hot shave that encourages men to explore skin care services. “When men call to inquire about a razor shave, we’ll talk about the importance of a pre-shave skin treatment,” says Mclendon. Part of every shave, this treatment typically consists of a deep cleansing with an exfoliant and an enzyme peel that breaks down the keratin under the beard. After the shave, the technician may opt to do a hydrating gel masque if there’s a reaction to the shave, as well as massage the client with a protective oil.

“It’s the perfect opportunity to talk about any skin care problems they may be experiencing and what other services we have that may be of benefit,” says Mclendon. “Men are less spontaneous than women. But once they start in the barber area and see the benefit to good skin care, then they are much more relaxed in a facial room.”

Customized Communication

The way your staff communicates to male clients about spa services needs to be straightforward and direct from that very first phone call.
“Remember, men don’t like to ask for directions; they don’t like the feeling of not knowing,” says Hammel. “But they don’t typically know as much as women, so you have to explain what’s involved in a spa service right up front. For example, they’re less likely to know what the term ‘exfoliate’ means. But you have to inform them in a way that’s never condescending.”

In their seminars, Francoeur and Coburn illustrate how innocently easy it can be to humiliate a male client. “For example, I’ll do a sketch of a male client coming in for a waxing appointment where the front desk attendant loudly instructs him to have a seat in the waiting area (among the female clients) until his attendant calls him for his back wax,” says Francoeur. “That gets a laugh, but it does happen. You have to remember that for guys, these services are a very private matter.”

The direct communication needs to continue in the treatment room. “Before their first facial, I’ll take them on a tour of the treatment room and explain each piece of equipment, each product, what I’ll do with each and how they work,” says Coburn. “I’ll talk about the 28-day cellular cycle for skin, ask about their lifestyle and offer suggestions. Education is the most important thing I can offer them that first day. But once you’ve earned their trust, then your word becomes gospel.”

Service Suggestions

While service providers would rightly argue that skin type and need is more important than gender when determining the best service for a client, there are differences in the way services should be conducted for men. “Unfortunately, even in school they don’t truly teach us how to perform services for men,” says Francoeur.

For example, according to Francoeur, clients should be told not to shave the morning of the facial service. Estheticians can’t use gauze because it shreds and sticks to the beard. Shaving and in-grown hairs present men with different skin care challenges that can alter the way a facial is performed. And, technicians need to know how to perform a facial on a man who has a beard.

“Too many estheticians will put on a masque and walk away leaving the client alone,” says Francoeur. “But that time is a great opportunity to massage the feet, hands or neck, introducing the client to the benefits of massage.”
Men lean more heavily to muscle therapy, opting for deep tissue massage or sports massage, says Tessler. “Many of our male clients are golfers or runners, and around marathon time we’ll be booked solid with runner massages. Because men typically prefer to go deeper into the tissue, you have to evaluate which technicians can best perform those services.”
Since time is an issue for many male clients who try to squeeze services in over a busy lunch hour, express services and quick add-ons are also popular. But you do have to be cautious how you schedule a first-time service. “Men’s pedicures typically take longer,” says Melendrez. “Because a man is more likely to never have had a pedicure, or at least not come in for maintenance, his skin is drier and exfoliation is a tougher job.”

Hammel also is surprised by how many men have never had pedicures. “Many have the notion that it will be uncomfortable or painful—it’s as though they expect the service to be like a trip to the doctor. They’re frequently amazed at how pleasant it is,” she adds.
When considering male services, you’ve also got to examine your equipment. After Hammel opened one of her first treatment areas, she learned that the basic tables that were purchased were too narrow. “Make sure your equipment is comfortable for men,” she advises.

Menus for Men

How seriously you take your male clientele is clearly reflected on your service menu. Do you maintain a separate menu, or at least a separate section, of customized men’s services? Do your descriptions appeal to men with male-friendly terminology?
“For the male client who is cautious about crossing that line into spa, you have to have a separate menu or menu page,” says Tessler. “While women want to luxuriate over a long menu with detailed service descriptions, men want to get to the point and are attracted to more concise, straightforward references.”

That doesn’t necessarily mean fewer service options. “When you look at the service menus of many spas, they’ll offer one or two facials for men and eight or nine for women,” says Coburn. “But men have as many different kinds of skin care issues. We never wanted them to feel like they are number two.”

Not only do descriptions need to be clear and to the point, but owners need to be aware that even the most common spa terminology can send men running. For example, to most men, manicure and pedicure denotes a service with polish. So, Bodé opted to term these services as Hand Fixes and Foot Fixes, while American Male offers Hand Detailing and Foot Detailing and markets waxing as Body Finishing.
The service descriptions should highlight health and wellness, as well as the benefits of the service, points out Hammel. “And of course, the words are important, instead of words like ‘glowing’ or ‘beautiful,’ you need to choose more masculine words like ‘energize’ and ‘revitalize.’” For examples of masculine service descriptions, see “Packaged Deal,” on page 39.

With a booming bridal business, Andre Chreky has had a lot of success with its special groom’s menu. Cassidy says the spa has even customized the signature survival kit it gifts to brides in hunter green for the groom. “It includes things that grooms forget on the busy day, like a razor, shaving cream, a pocket comb and breath mints,” she says. Naturally, services that couples can enjoy together represent a great introduction for men into the world of spa. “We’ve had a lot of success with our Couple’s Massage, where the husband and wife start with a foot soak and a glass of wine and have the massage together,” says Poole.

Packaged Deal
While owners claim female clients are more package-driven than men, a spa package highlighting the right services and that is delivered with simple, straightforward, masculine vernacular can attract a crowd. Can you detect the subtle differences in these male-focused package descriptions?

Bodé Mini Fix
2 hours, $145
Available at Bodé Spa in Ottawa
“For those times when you need a little boost but have little time. We start you off with a Foot Fix to begin the relaxation and finish with a Bodé Basic Facial and a Hand Fix. This package can be expressed! Are you low on time? For an additional $20 we will double your team and have you out in an hour.”

Space Mission
2 1/2 hours, $235
Available at Spa Spa in Chicago
“Muscular Therapy Massage, Reflexology and Indian Head Massage. The mission of this complete package is clear—to take you on an unforgettable journey of decompression. From head to toe—including scalp, neck, shoulders, back, legs and feet—your therapists will ensure that no muscle is neglected. You may never wish to return from this journey.”

The Happy Hubby
3 1/2 hours, $195
Available at Natural Oasis Spa and Salon in Spring Hill, Tennessee
“Customized for men, this includes aromatherapy massage, essential back treatment, Pure Focus Facial and a hair cut.”

Men’s Spa Package
2 1/2 hours, $235
Available at Lather Spa in New York
“This no-nonsense grooming regimen will leave you looking and feeling your best. Start with our Grooming Facial, then relieve muscle tension with a Deep Tissue Massage. Our Men’s Manicure leaves even the roughest hands clean and smooth with nails buffed to a high shine.”

Gentlemen’s Kur
90 minutes, $185
Available at Emerge Spa Salon in Boston
“This energizing Kur for men blends the therapeutic benefits of thermal minerals with eucalyptus essential oil to create an experience that leaves the body mindfully relaxed and revitalized. The Kur begins with a brisk salt/eucalyptus exfoliation followed by a robust eucalyptus herbal bath and relaxing massage.”

Manly Marketing

Since the traditional word-of-mouth doesn’t connect men the same way it does women, marketing to the male clientele can present a unique challenge. Bodé’s owners believe their single most important marketing tool is their website, “We work very hard to make it as informative as possible,” says Francoeur. “And we work to make sure our site pops up in the top three for men’s services in Ottawa. That’s how most new clients find us.”

Francoeur also has found his clientele is responsive to e-mail advertising, and the spa strives to send out informative monthly newsletters that offer information and trends, rather than sales pitches. Of course the word-of-mouth that does work with men is professional recommendation. “Because we offer male-focused services that others don’t, we frequently get clients who are referred by physicians, health clubs, and other salons and spas,” says Francoeur.

In Andre Chreky’s successful quarterly newsletters, Chreky and Cassidy always feature a special section and a promotion for men. “We use a Q&A section that tries to address issues that are embarrassing for men to ask, such as ‘What can I do about my hairy back?’ or ‘How can I treat in-grown hairs?’” says Chreky. “We find that our female clients tend to share these informational tidbits with their husbands.”
Chreky also has seen a strong response to e-mail blast promotions. “Although we’re frequently told that men aren’t very coupon driven, we’re always surprised at the number of men, some of them successful lawyers and lobbyists, eagerly coming in with their 10-percent-off coupons.”
Naturally, gift cards are popular for Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Father’s Day, but look at how your business is packaging that gift. “We recently did an e-mail blast that showcased our more feminine gift card in contrast to our masculine one that features a background of black river stones. We constantly are featuring new designs on our gift cards to keep them fresh and interesting, but you always need one that appeals to your men,” points out Chreky.

Hampers successfully publicized the opening of the Men’s Club by involving many of Boston’s business leaders and celebrities.
“We’re a huge sports town, and we were able to persuade Matt Light, a tackle for the New England Patriots, to come in for a makeover,” says Hampers. “Before he looked like a mountain man with bushy hair and beard, so we gave him a great makeover with hair cut, shave, facial and wardrobe and he allowed us to publicize it. It had everyone in town asking, what happened to Matt Light?”

When the Cleveland Indians were in town for the playoffs, Hampers succeeded in hosting the ESPN announcers which earned some well-placed, on-air mentions, and when John Travolta was filming in town, the spa happily catered to his daily on-set manicures.
Of course, once a man is your client, then the professional recommendation is the best marketing strategy. Hammel cleverly encourages those recommendations with her Test Drive Program, which features a different service every six weeks that men can test drive for half price for the first time. “It’s an exciting way to promote those services, and we find there’s always an opportunity for a service provider to talk about a highlighted service,” she says.

The Payoff

With all the different things to consider with men and spa services, you might be wondering, ‘Why bother?’ But, our male-focused owners say that men are more than worth the extra work.

“Men communicate in a much more direct way and are not as afraid of an uncomfortable conversation,” says Hammel. “So they are much more likely to tell you if they are not happy with a service, and much more willing to let you make it right. Women will just smile and quietly go elsewhere—but they’ll tell their friends what made them unhappy.”

Men lack the skepticism that most women have, adds Tessler. “Whether you are recommending a specific service or product, they are more willing to listen to suggestion. Part of that is they feel a bit clueless in this arena and view you as a professional, and another part is they simply have fewer competitive products at home.”

When approached in a straightforward manner, men represent an easier sell once their trust has been earned. “We are very sample-happy here at Bodé,” says Francoeur. “While women are very interested in learning about all the different products they should be using, you’ve got to go more slowly with men. After a skin care analysis, we’ll offer our guys samples of the products we think would be best for them and invite them to try it. On the second and third visit, we’ll start on the education—by then they trust you and they are loyal.”

Client loyalty is the biggest male payoff—men are almost three times more loyal than their female counterparts claim some owners. “Women constantly survey their friends and try different locations, but once you’ve gained a man’s trust, you’ve got a standing appointment,” says Hampers.

What’s with Waxing
Traditionally, the spa service most frequently connected with men is massage, but many of today’s spa owners claim that waxing services represent their most popular introductions to the spa for men.

“The uni-brow is no more,” claims Paula Cassidy, spa director at Andre Chreky the Spa Salon in Washington, D.C., who swears even conservative politicians and businessmen are seeking eyebrow services.
Depending on the service, waxing can seem a less intimate experience for the timid male, says Shaana Melendrez, spa director of Lather Spa in New York. “Usually they are coming in at the suggestion of a wife or girlfriend, but that quick waxing service is also a great way for them to check out our environment,” she says.

A spa that offers waxing services for men can put a spa on the map, says Daniel Francoeur, co-owner of Bodé Spa in Ottawa, Ontario. Because many schools don’t teach specific waxing procedures for men, he believes many spas either don’t offer male waxing services or don’t market them correctly.

“A man will come in asking for a back wax and leave disappointed when a big patch of hair is removed from his back, but his neck and shoulders are still hairy. When men call for a waxing service, you have to talk to them about exactly what that service includes—we’ve found it’s better to market and price the back wax to include the neck and shoulders.”

Whether a man’s needs for waxing is driven by a competitive edge in a sporting activities, health reasons or personal preference, male waxing is increasing in all areas, says Francoeur. “That includes eyebrows, chests, backs, legs and even Brazilians,” he says. “But we’ve found when men come in for a waxing service, 90 percent of the time, there’s a woman behind it.”




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Stacey Soble Stacey Soble, Editor in Chief of Salon Today

Stacey has been involved in the conversation of salon business for 14 years—as a reporter, a consultant and as the Editor in Chief of SALON TODAY.

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