Mobile / Home Spa vs ‘Real’ Spa. The Benefits and The Bad


I just read an article touting the growing success of Mobile Spas throughout the country. The reasons for their surging popularity is the increase in the stress of customers and their desire to relax int he cozy confines of their private homes. Within the article was a note suggesting that regular spas (those with a storefront, rooms, equipment and employees) should run as fast as possible to include mobile spa services in their offerings. And the statement was made that mobile spas are “the most in-demand in busy markets across the United States, Canada, Australia, and Europe.” As a spa owner who has seen her single-location business geometrically grow since opening in 2002, I would be remiss if I did not say that this is (at least for me and ESSpa Kozmetika Organic Skincare) absolutely wrong.

When I first opened, we did offer mobile spa services to our guests and clients. We offered the ability to go to people’s homes, their businesses, wherever – and the response was………..well, lets just say that crickets on a cold winter night are more responsive. Yes, we had a call here and there asking about our mobile services and our pricing but rarely, I think we only had two actual mobile bookings, had any inquiries go past the “tire-kicking” stage.

The reason for this is severalfold.

  1. Most people do have more stress today than in past years (the economy, politics, uncertainty, etc.) and we are now in a period of growing austerity. More and more people are growing closer to home, they want more privacy as they close their front door and try to tune out all of the “pollution” going on outside. This being the case, many people are hesitant to let outsiders into their private spaces. When you let someone into your home, especially someone to do a very personal, hands-on treatment such as a spa treatment – you have to be willing to give up all pretense of privacy in order to fully enjoy and reap the benefits of that treatment. Most people are not willing to do this when the only true benefit to the customer is the time and hassle saved by not having to travel to a dedicated spa. And it should be said that there is a “hassle” involved with mobile spa services as the therapist (in order to provide a “spa-quality” treatment) must bring a treatment table, a steamer, a towel warmer, lotions and creams, multi-function devices, wax warmers, extra towels, pedicure bowls, dozens of nail colors to choose from, hot stones, and the lsit goes on.
  2. Guests come to ESSpa Kozmetika Organic Skincare not just because we deliver the most effective skincare available anywhere at any price – they come to us because we have taken the time to design and build a physical location that is truly a place where our guests can “escape” for however long they wish, from whatever troubles or stress they have. While they are visiting us, they can let their guard down, they can relax completely and they can enjoy the treatments we offer to the fullest extent possible. There is no possibility of interruption from phones, kids, pets, neighbors, husbands, wives or simply the interruption caused by the mobile spa need to “set up” and create a “contrived” spa setting in a customer’s private space. And at ESSpa Kozmetika, when the service is finished, the client can choose to stay, sit in the sauna, take a shower, read a book, have something to eat or drink……..and then leave. When a mobile spa comes to a client’s home, when the treatment is over, the client then has to “clean up” their own home after the service is over (or they have to watch the mobile spa therapist clean up afterwards). Either way, the aftermath of a mobile spa treatment provides considerably greater opportunity to create stress and tension (unless of course, the mobile spa client goes right to bed – and worries about cleaning up later).
  3. I touched on it before, but a mobile spa simply cannot provide the same level of effective results that can be achieved by visiting a well-established, top-rated “real” spa. At ESSpa Kozmetika, all of my therapists have an incredible array of products, equipment and other resources which they can utilize to provide the best treatment at a moment’s notice. Ask yourself how many times the needs of a client changed during the course of a treatment and how the actual treatment differed from what was actually scheduled byt he client when she made the appointment. The best therapists must be ready to adapt to the needs of their guest in order to provide truly beneficial results and this is only really possible to accomplish in a well-equipped spa setting – NOT at someone home or office OR at a spa party at the neighbors.
  4. There might be tax advantages to offering mobile spa services. But as almost all home-based business expenses are a red-flag for the IRS, so too might be the variety of expenses considered part of a mobile spa business. To be forwarned is to be forarmed.
  5. Has anyone even thought about the insurance ramifications of offering spa treatments in someone’s private home or office. And I am not speaking just about accidents, most independant spa insurance liability programs would cover those claims. I am speaking more about the potential liability from an accusation – from the disappearance of a cherished knick-knack to something conceivably far more serious and personal. In a private, one-on-one setting, these instances would boil down to a she-said vs. she-said argument EXCEPT that one of the parties would be a homeowner and the other would be a visitor (or independent contractor?). As you can see, this is a gray area that in my opinion, is best left alone.

There is also another reason that I don’t think mobile spas are the answer and they DO NOT offer “unlimited income” as the writer of the article I read stated. A mobile spa operator has to drive from place to place to see their customers. They have to spend time setting up in each different location for each different customer. Every minute that they are spending driving to another customer’s location or spending setting up or cleaning up is time that I as a spa owner with a well-equipped spa am spending treating more and more guests. Additionally, every minute that a guest spends in my spa – whether they are in the waiting room, being treated, in the sauna or the locker room – provides me with the opportunity for them to ask me another question, provides them with more time to upgrade their service, to book an additional service, to ask about a new product and to buy a retail item to take with them. Guests in my spa are “captured clients” that become raving fans that decide to spend their money in my spa instead of going somewhere else because I provide my guests with a “total” experience. Mobile spas cannot do that. I was unable to adequately offer mobile spa services and I have all the means to do so – so I chose, for the benefit of my guests, to not offer them at all.

In closing allow me to say that I think there is a place for mobile spa serivces, but I would not call them mobile spas – just as I refuse to call the local hair salon with a bed in the back a “spa”. Call them what they are, private therapists. Massage therapists have been making “house-calls” forever and but other professionals truly cannot be expected to do the same. This is because a massage therapist doesn’t require all of the equipment and products as needed by a esthetician or nail technician to perform a superior and effective treatment. And that is what I recommend – dedicate yourself to providing the absolute best possible treatment you can, to every client, every time. If you do that, then your income truly will be unlimited.

A former model and watch-maker, Eva Kerschbaumer came to America from Hungary in 1996. She designed, built and opened ESSpa Kozmetika Organic Skincare in 2002 with a staff of 3, 3 rooms and 700 sq.ft. Today she has a team of 35, 14 rooms, 5,000 sq.ft. and spends over 100 hours per week delivering facials and other skincare treatments to every type of guest from age 3 to 83. Eva has been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Healing Lifestyles & Spa, DAYSPA Magazine and numerous other publications and is recognized as one of the leading authorities in the industry on the benefits of spa treatments for children and families. ESSpa Kozmetika Organic Skincare was named “The 3rd Best Spa in America” by the Indsutry Source (Dec.’08), won Skin Inc Magazine’s “Best of the Best” International Spa Award (Oct.’08) and is the only member of The Green Spa Network in the State of Pennsylvania. Eva is happy to provide tips and coaching to spa owners and practioners and invites your comments at mobilespa@esspa.com. Or call (412) 782-3888 or visit www.esspa.net.

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7 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. […] Excerpt from:  Mobile / Home Spa vs ‘Real’ Spa. The Benefits and The Bad […]

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  5. Wow great article there is some good information here, thankyou

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  7. Hi Mark, Glad you like the post. Hard to go up against the majors with a different opinion.


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