SPA REVIEWS: Spa Space in Chicago

Hunkering Down

Right off the bat, Spa Space faced a marked downturn in the wake of national tragedy. “After September 11, downtown Chicago became a ghost town,” Tessler says. “The Sears Tower [located mere blocks away from Spa Space] was considered a key target. Suddenly, there were days that we did just one eyebrow wax—that was it.”

But as the holiday season got underway, business picked up with gift certificate sales. It built steadily over the next six years, mostly due to bustling business from corporate groups (stoked by regular off-site visits in which spa staff performed chair massage, and strategically placed brochures touting Spa Space’s group corporate offerings) and outreach to local hotel concierges.

And then the Great Recession hit.

The economic disaster drastically curbed Spa Space’s corporate business, the segment Tessler had long relied upon to stay afloat. The spa had grown by applying its attention to details that matter most to companies: careful organization, clear contracts (a byproduct of Tessler’s law background) and customization. (For example, the spa team once unveiled citrus-infused mini services for an event introducing a vodka company’s new citrus flavor.) There is even a designated section of the spa’s website enlisting menus, service packages and other offerings specifically designed for corporate events.

But once the recession arrived, no amount of catering to corporate needs could reverse the losses. “Those kinds of things—corporate spa-going—were very frowned upon during that time,” Tessler reflects. She resorted to “strategic scheduling,” cutting back on her staffers’ hours rather than laying them off completely. This helped Spa Space weather the slumps, but Tessler wasn’t through—she discovered a few more sales-boosting techniques to counteract the loss.

For one, she started combining treatments into value-based “super-offerings”—microdermabrasion with a green tea peel plus a lightening mask, for instance, or a “head-to-toe massage” incorporating several different modalities. Both proved popular and profitable. And she implemented a “Current Specials” website feature, which also caught on, to the point that clients still often call in advance to inquire about the next month’s offerings.