By Susie Ellis
I visited Champneys Tring
during my UK trip. They won our 2007 Readers’ Choice Award for Favorite Spa in the UK, so I wanted to tour the new multi-million dollar make-over. Quite impressive! Here are several highlights…
1. Seeing some of the old original Champneys photos. Champneys opened in the 20’s and the resort has kept photos from the 30’s (which pre-date Rancho La Puerta photos from the 40’s). Some were similar to the Mexico destination spa…black and white shots of women in bathing suits, exercise classes, the beautiful grounds, and some group staff photos.
2. Another highlight was seeing the remarkable progress that Champneys has made with their brand extension. Stephen Purdew is one very clever business man! I met his mother, Dorothy, about 12 years ago and I believe she was pretty much in charge at that time. I understand she is still well, visits the spas regularly, and (per a staff member we met) still knows everything that is going on.
Nowadays, it seems that it’s now Stephen’s show, and he is definitely making it a global one! The Purdew’s owned several health farms under different names for decades. The idea to purchase Champneys and rebrand all of their properties with that name was absolutely brilliant. Since then, Champneys has made huge strides in branding, recently opening several day spas in the UK and planning the opening of six more next year and dozens after that. There is Champneys skin care, hair care, vitamins, home spa amenities and equipment, and frozen food, etc.
It certainly wasn’t lost on me that their new refurbishment resulted in everyone having to walk through the retail shop when entering and leaving the dining room at every meal. I’m sure that has increased sales!
3. The most impressive highlight of all was the fact that Stephen Purdew took the time to come to Tring that day to sit with Cassandra and me in the living room foyer and talk about his business. He has what I call “the gift of hospitality.” His mother has it too. This talent for making people feel welcome and special is really an art. Not everyone in the spa industry has that gift in my opinion. It is a little like massage therapists…some have gifted hands and some don’t. The ones that don’t might still give a good massage, but it just isn’t like getting a massage from someone who is truly gifted and engaged. This, I believe, is one of the reasons the Purdews, and now Champneys, have had such great success.
That…and maybe also the fact that Stephen’s background is accounting and he is very quick (and seemingly intuitive) with numbers.