Some of you may know that I have an “Ask Susie” column where consumers and spa professionals ask spa-related questions that I try to answer as best I can (or I tap into my vast database of very smart spa-people to ask for their help). Here is a question I received the other day that I want to share with you because it seems so timely in light of the fact that this topic came up at our recent 2010 Global Spa Summit in Istanbul – and had, in fact, come up a few years earlier during the 2008 Global Spa Summit in New York. It shows, I believe, that to a large extent our industry is not really “getting it” yet.
Here is the question:
We are ready to update our spa with new colors. What are the most popular color pallets in the industry right now?
Years ago I would have considered this a pretty normal question and probably endeavored to actually advise on some color pallets. However I can’t do that anymore because of the voices in my head from two different people screaming “copy cat, copy cat!”
Two keynote speakers at different Summits two years apart said very much the same thing and I am now convinced that there is a lot of truth to what they are saying.
Ian Schrager (the famous designer) addressed the Global Spa Summit (GSS) in New York in 2008 on the topic of “The Future Look of Spas.” He told us that it seemed to him that most spa owners, operators, designers and consultants building new spa properties go out and look at other spas for ideas and then end up basically copying what these spas are doing. Ian went on to explain that when he looks for inspiration for a hotel design project, the last thing he would do is look at other hotels. Instead he would look to fashion, or yachts or private airplanes – perhaps to art, etc.
Edie Weiner (well-known futurist and author of “Future Think”) spoke at this year’s GSS in Istanbul and included some ideas on the to think about the future and that included spa concepts. Edie shared with us that she feels that spas look very much alike all over the world. Her observation was that having been in spas in Tokyo, New York, London and many other cities around the world, that unless you look out a window, you really would not know which city or country you were in. She said our industry looked very “copy-cat”. Ouch.
Edie went on to suggest that we would be well-served to become more differentiated – that having unique spas and unique concepts would strengthen us as an industry and not make us as vulnerable. She threw out a few examples to get us thinking differently and included the idea of a spa where part of the experience might be clients getting to hold and cuddle new puppies and kittens because of the emotional health benefits from that type of activity. Or she suggested perhaps creating a spa that caters specifically to the aging population – however cautioning that it would be wise to segment more specifically because a 65 year old and an 85 year old have vastly different interests and needs.
Ian Schrager had also shared an example with us of how he saw the spa of the future and it was a combination social scene and spa – a place people could gather that would have a bar serving alcohol, “hot” music, some flair, and yes – also spa treatments, etc.
So now that I am more aware of the need for our spa industry to create unique experiences for customers, when someone asks me what color palettes are “in” or what the design trends are in the spa industry, I make a point of not suggesting anything.
Rather, my best advice is something I witnessed when Deborah Szekely built her new Golden Door Spa in southern California in 1975. She had always loved loved loved Japanese architecture and art and so she decided – that’s exactly what she was going to build! That spa has been super successful for over 40 years and it still makes a unique impression each time a new guest crosses the Japanese bridge and walks through the shoji screens.
So my answer to the color palette question is simply this: look into your heart of hearts and ask yourself, what colors do I absolutely love?
That may be a good place to start.
My twitter address: @susieellis
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