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Broad appeal has made Myrtle Beach, South Carolina,
a growing hot spot for a wide variety of spas

Called the “Grand Strand” by locals and veteran visitors, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, has grown into a year-round resort destination and residential community, welcoming more than 13 million visitors annually and boasting a permanent population of about 250,000, with consistent projected growth. What's the secret to Myrtle Beach's popularity? Of course, the beach and weather have played a big part in attracting both visitors and residents, but additional lures like abundant world-class golf (more than 110 courses and counting), plenty of entertainment, and fine dining also play star roles.

And spas?  Most certainly. “Thanks to our status as a premier golf and beach destination and place to live, the spa scene has blossomed along the Grand Strand,” says Brad Dean, president and CEO of the Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce (www.myrtlebeachinfo.com). “The number and diversity of spas has become yet another attraction for both visitors and residents.”

Who comes to Myrtle Beach? Vacationers who seek sea, surf and sand, naturally. Golfers. Middle-age professionals. Retirees seeking wellness as they enter their later years. When do they come? All of the time. While the area's "season" used to run from spring to fall, year-round golf and other activities have turned it into a four-season destination--and place to live.

Unlike other beach communities, Myrtle Beach is economically accessible, making it a suitable vacation spot or permanent home for many. According to the Chamber of Commerce's 2004 figures, 73% of visitors to the area earn $74,000 per household per year or less. Housing costs are about one-fourth those of Manhattan and one-half those of Washington, DC.

All of this points to the conclusion that in Myrtle Beach, there are as many formulas for spa success as there are forumlas for breaking par out on the Grand Strand's fairways.

The variety of potential clients has led to many unique dayspas in the area. The options include resort spas, traditional dayspas, a males-only dayspa, and long-time salons that have added limited dayspa services to meet demand. In Myrtle Beach, there are as many formulas for dayspa success as there are formulas for breaking par out on the Grand Strand’s fairways.

Resort Crowd

Myrtle Beach's resorts attract golfers and spa-goers, and on occasion the two groups intersect. The area's resort spa directors know they need to capitalize on the number of clients who come in with golf-induced sore muscles, as well as their long-suffering golf widows (or widowers) with time on their hands. These client groups can be vacationers or locals, so the resort spas must be prepared to cater to both.

Opened in 2003 as part of the grand opening of the 407-room Marriott and part of the 2,200-acre Grand Dunes resort and residential development, The Hibiscus Spa (www.marriott.com/myrgd) attracts locals and vacationers with a very specific yet all-encompassing marketing strategy. “We actively target year-round and seasonal residents,” says spa manager Ann Sammons. “We’ve created a variety of features and programs that the locals love.”

Sammons reports that locals always receive a 20% discount on services and 10% on retail purchases at Hibiscus. They can also utilize all of the resort’s facilities during the entire day of their appointment (and even receive lunch in one of the spa’s two soothing relaxation rooms). Sammons created and maintains a list of more than 300 local clients and prospects, all of whom receive emails about monthly specials, packages, and new services.

Another creative program Sammons designed to attract local, group, and resort business is called the “Spa Experience.” With this, Sammons takes the spa out of the spa by using one of the resort’s banquet rooms to create a spa-like introductory experience. Offerings at these popular programs have included massage, facials, nail services, yoga, aromatherapy, health lectures, and much more.

The Hibiscus Spa at the Myrtle Beach Marriott Resort at Grande Dunes

Size of spa: 8,000 square feet

Spa areas: Reception area that features artwork from a nearby restaurant/art gallery, Collector’s Cafe (they exchange referrals); six massage rooms; two Vichy rooms; three facial rooms; two nail rooms; separate makeup room; large locker rooms with separate steam and sauna; two relaxation rooms.

Employees: 25

Signature treatments: Hibiscus Signature Massage (60/90 min., $100/$150); Golf and Fitness Massage (60/90 min., $100/$140); Hibiscus Awakening package (Vichy shower, salt glow, massage, lunch, manicure, and pedicure, 5 hrs./$290).

Mostly Women

Her Body & Soul (www.herbodysoul.com) is located on the south part of Myrtle Beach, just off a bustling highway and at the entrance of a residential community. This stand-alone day spa is a true testament to growing a business by listening to clients' wishes.

“I opened Her Body & Soul back in 2001 when I realized that Myrtle Beach wasn't providing enough activities women could enjoy while their loved ones were out playing golf,” says owner Beth Marcis. The immediate success of this upscale day spa proved her right. Since then, Marcis has also added many amenities and services to further meet the needs of her clientele.

Her Body & Soul started out as a fitness facility offering a few day spa services, but when demand for beauty treatments grew, Marcis took space away from her workout room to add a full-service hair salon. However, it’s the day spa side of the business that has been the true driving force behind Her Body & Soul’s continued growth. Locals and visitors flock to the facility (the locals-to-visitors ratio is about 60/40, smoothing out any seasonal swings in Myrtle Beach visitation), with several area hotels consistently sending guests for treatments.

Showing the trademark success characteristic--flexibility--Marcis began offering day spa services to men last year. (The fitness facility also now allows men after 2 p.m.). “Quite simply, women wanted their men to enjoy the same services they were enjoying,” Marcis says. “Being able to include more gift certificates and couples massages has made this a very successful transition. We've sold an incredible number of gift certificates, packages and products to men and women during the holidays and leading up to Valentine’s Day.”

The success of Her Body & Soul led Marcis to launch another day spa, due to open next year. “One of our loyal clients told her developer-husband about us,” she explains. The yet-to-be-named 10,000+-square-foot spa will be located across the street from a major Myrtle Beach resort, ensuring that Marcis benefits from a nice mix of locals and visitors.

Her Body and Soul

Size of spa: 6,000 square feet

Spa areas: Three massage rooms; two facial rooms; Vichy shower room; pedicure/manicure area; large women’s locker room with steam room and separate makeup area with four sinks; two relaxation rooms (one for women, one for men); hair salon; fitness facility; "Health Cafe” offering complimentary snacks and drinks.

Employees: 15

Signature treatments: Body wrap/Vichy shower treatments (60 min/$130); Surfer Treatment facial for men (60 min/$125); Pregnancy massage (60 min/$80); Cystal Energy Balancing post-massage add-on (10 min/$30)

Treatment products: Eminence

Mostly Men

Many men love golf and water sports; hence, many men go to Myrtle Beach. When it's time to unwind, locals in the know are heading to (or sending visitors to) He’s Not Here Barberspa for Men (www.hesnothere.biz). Opened in mid-2004 by husband-and-wife team Patty and Gordon Hirsch, He’s Not Here is a uniquely male spa concept that’s been very successful in the area. “Both local and visiting males--as well as their wives or significant others--were obviously looking for a day spa like this,” says Patty, who had a thriving freelance massage practice before developing this concept with Gordon.

As a massage therapist, Patty had noticed that many male executive clients were coming to her for massage, going elsewhere for hair services, and possibly even heading to a third location for manicures or pedicures. “That’s when we knew we had a day spa concept that could work in Myrtle Beach,” says Gordon. The couple explored and developed their idea with the help of male-specific product manufacturers and visits to other males-only spas.

Though there are three old-world leather and mahogany barber chairs in the front of He’s Not Here and hair services get many men in the door, this is most definitely a full-service day spa. Still, the requisite treatment and common areas sport a decidedly male point of view in decor and amenities. People need only witness the three large flat-screen monitors--typically tuned to sports and business networks--in the reception area to know that this isn't their mother's spa.

He's Not Here has developed a loyal following consisting of both locals (60%) and first-time or veteran out-of-town visitors (40%). Although the spa's clientele is theoretically all male, many of its bookings (especially for vacationers and gift certificate recipients) are initiated by women. “We get them in the door with either a haircut or through a significant other, but we keep them coming back with a great environment, massages and much more,” Patty says.

As can be expected, therapeutic massage is quite popular at He's Not Here, but comprehensive Vichy treatments that include a sea salt scrub, natural bee honey conditioner and moisturizing finish have proven to be a perfect premassage seller. “Our therapists tell men who combine the Vichy with any massage that they shouldn’t plan on getting any more work done that day,” says Gordon. Hair services are spa-like, with all signature cuts and styles including a hot towel facial, tea tree shampoo and scalp massage. Appointments for facials, manicures, and pedicures (all done in private to meet the typical male preference) continue to grow with repeat customers.

“Once a month, I have a haircut and a massage,” says Eric Miller, who has become a loyal He’s Not Here client and a source of many referrals. Miller is also a regular purchaser of the spa-level haircare and traditional shaving products that the business retails. “The staff has always been helpful in explaining products that they sell and I've bought various items that I would'nt have bought in other environments,” continues Miller. “I feel as though I am on vacation when I'm there.”

The spa also provides a full-service website for virtual day spa planning. The site includes a spa tour, service menu downloads, online gift certificate sales and appointment scheduling. Appointments are suggested, but walk-ins are welcome and anticipated. “We know some men have a hard time making commitments,” Patty quips. “So we try to keep it simple and welcome walk-ins by keeping additional staff on hand.” The site is an effective draw for Myrtle Beach locals and visitors alike.

He’s Not Here is careful to maintain its allegiance to its gender-based clientele, but does occasionally welcome ‘she-clients'. This occurs when a woman wants to work with a certain therapist (many of Patty’s female clients moved with her) or when a client wants to book a couples' massage (60/90 min., $150/$225).

The spa's marketing strategy is making Myrtle Beach a very sunshiny place to be. The 2005 holiday season saw record gift certificate sales for the spa, with more than 30% of these already redeemed by the end of January 2006! Gordon notes that once men see the offerings and experience the benefits, they often either add services on the spot or book future appointments. “

He's Not Here Barberspa for Men

Size of spa: 2,000 square feet

Spa areas: Three multi-purpose treatment rooms; Vichy treatment room; nail room; locker room with shower; large reception/barber shop area

Employees: More than a dozen

Signature treatments: Array of massages including Deep Tissue Athletic Massage (60/90 min., $85/$125) and Four-handed Synchronized Massage (60/90 min., $150/$220), with hot stones added to any massage for $20; body/Vichy treatments (60 min./$125); Paul Mitchell’s Tea Tree and Murad tingling hair treatments ($25-55)

Retail: Truefitt & Hill grooming products (traditional shaving soaps, brushes, and razors)

As Myrtle Beach continues to boom, so will this scenic area's spa scene. Spas are continuing to pop up on the Grand Strand, each eager to show locals and visitors that their stand-alone day spa or resort-based luxury spa is the perfect complement to Myrtle Beach's well-established landscape of surf, sun, and sandtraps.