September saw almost 350 professionals convene in Sanya for the annual SpaChina Summit and this year an inaugural survey provided valuable insights into the state of the country’s spa market.
Inspired by a national consumer survey by Meituan, China’s equivalent of Groupon, which valued the Chinese beauty market at CNY660bn (US$95.9bn, €82bn, £73bn), show organiser SpaChina magazine conducted its own survey on over 100 high-end spas.
Customers born in the 70s gravitate to health maintenance and traditional treatments like TCM and massage, while those born in the 80s prefer anti-ageing and body shaping, according to the spa owner survey respondents.
Spa-goers born in the 90s are most interested in newness, and will try everything – especially if it makes them look better in selfies! Yet they don’t have much money to buy lots of treatments.
Survey results revealed that 89 per cent of hotel spa menus only target guests born in the 70s, reflecting a need for modernisation.
Ninety per cent of hotel spa guests are Chinese and tend to favour ‘results’ rather than relaxation. Overall, it’s felt that as GDP grows, so do consumer expectations of the spa facility and experience.
State of the market
China’s spa market generates CNY23bn (US$3.3bn, €2.9bn, £2.5bn), the survey shows – only 3.5 per cent of the reported national beauty market.
Sixty-five per cent of spa owners say business is the same, 21 per cent say growing, and 14 per cent say business down. It’s also noted that while 39 per cent of spas are newly opened, the business failure rate is high with just over 1/3 of spas (34 per cent) closing.
In China, hotel spas are seen as clean, safe and professional, but not innovative – many offer the same products, equipment and concepts with little differentiation, much like in western markets. Day spas are seen as being more unique. They frequently upgrade equipment and treatments, are not as constrained by brand guidelines, and owners are typically more involved.
Lack of innovation was flagged up as one of the major challenges Chinese spa owners face. Rising staff costs and recruiting difficulty is another big issue, as is lower than expected revenues.
Additional obstacles include modernisation of business software and hardware for spas, and the integration of mobile pay platforms, as most Chinese consumers pay via the WeChat app.
It is indeed interesting to see how quickly the Chinese spa market is mirroring the professional- and consumer-facing challenges we’re seeing globally.