U.S. spas seem recession-proof, says industry group

Mon Jul 6, 2009 5:10pm EDT
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By Michelle Nichols

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Spas across the United States appear recession-proof as record numbers of Americans pay for treatments from massages to manicures to deal with stress amid the global financial crisis, an industry group said on Monday.

There were more than 160 million visits to U.S. spas in 2008, up nearly 16 percent from the previous year, while industry revenue grew almost 18 percent to $12.8 billion, a study by the International Spa Association showed.

"The spa industry is recession proof," Lynne McNees, president of the Lexington, Kentucky-based association, told Reuters. "The economy is hitting everyone across the board but it also is creating a whole lot of stress ... We know that the No. 1 reason people go to spas worldwide is to reduce stress."

In New York, spas offering manicures, pedicures and massage are almost as ubiquitous as the city's yellow taxi cabs.

"I definitely have not cut back on the manicures and pedicures," said Ashley McAdams, 33, a website editor, as she left a West Village salon with purple polish on her toes.

"I am definitely shopping less for clothes," she said. "If I'm not going to buy a lot of big purchases at least I can keep myself up with manicure and pedicures."

Although the number of visits to spas grew in 2008, so did the number of locations -- up 19 percent to 21,300 -- resulting in flat revenue per spa location.

"People are still going," McNees said. "They're still walking in the door because they see it as an investment in health."   Continued...

<p>"The Best Job in the World" competition finalist George Karellas of Ireland receives a pedicure on Daydream Island, about 950km (590 miles) north of Brisbane, May 5, 2009. REUTERS/Tourism Queensland/Eddie Safarik/Handout</p>