Groupon and other daily deal sites are giving spa prices a rubdown.
The discounts offered on social media and daily deal sites often as much as 50% -- are remaking the way spas price services, experts say. "In a nutshell, people have become Groupon crazy," says Allan Share, the president of the Day Spa Association. The low price points appeal to people who want to try something new and to those who want to visit more regularly, both of which can benefit spas looking to fill empty appointments, he says.
The sites have even had an effect among wealthier consumers, whose demand for services has held steady while spending dropped. Budgets for massages, facials, and salon treatments among the wealthy dropped 14% over the course of last year, says Pam Danziger, president of luxury research firm Unity Marketing. The firm's quarterly assessments found spending at the beginning of 2011 averaged $3,500, which dropped to around $3,000. "People are still getting their nails done and their hair colored, but spending indicates that they're looking for ways to do it for less," she says.
The influx of sales does have a down-side: consumers have to do a little more digging to determine if the deal is worth it. Offers on social media sites may not be better than those on a spa's web site or email newsletter, for example, and daily deal offers are only available to buy for a matter of hours. "You're at the mercy of who wants to make a deal during that time frame," says Mary Blackmon, chief executive of Spa-Addicts.com, a review site. Quality may be questionable, too. "Is it really a deal if the place isn't good?" says Carolyn Brundage, chief executive of spa and beauty review site PrettyCity.com. "To some extent, you get what you pay for."
But it is possible to indulge without splurging:
"The benefits of massage aren't limited to Saturday and Sunday," says Sallie Fraenkel, a vice president for SpaFinder. In fact, spas tend to offer more specials during the slower weekdays, and may also have perks for grabbing the first appointment of the day. Several daily deal sites, including Groupon and Living Social, also offer deals that must be purchased and used that day, letting spas unload unfilled appointments. Avalon Salon & Day Spa in New York, for example, recently offered a $100 one-hour massage for $60 on Groupon Now!, usable that day between noon and 8 p.m.
Leverage social media
Most spas have a Facebook account, and many are also branching out into Twitter and Foursquare. Checking those pages, Brundage says, "is the number one way to find a special incentive." Shoppers may find exclusive offers, like the Facebook-only "HookUP" deals from Dolce Salon & Spa in Chandler, Ariz. Fans recently saw deals including 40% off waxing and a custom organic facial for $55 instead of the usual $95. Some spas also use their feeds to offer deals on last-minute openings, if you're in a position to act fast, she says.
Buy in bulk
Booking more than one treatment for the same day, or buying a series for repeat visits, can result in a lower cost per treatment than booking individually. Avant Salon in San Antonio offers six hour-long massages or facials for $300, a savings of up to $510. Shoppers may even be able to negotiate their own packages, as long as they can shell out the full amount up front, Blackmon says. But it's important to compare details -- packages that combine multiple services on the same day sometimes shorten service time along with the price.
Join the group
Daily deal sites still have some of the best offers around, Share says. Spa deals show up fairly regularly, and there are also spa-focused offerings including SpaFinder's SpaRahRah.com and Spaphile.com. (The former currently has 56% off at Tribeca Beauty Spa in New York, charging $97 for a microdermabrasion facial and $25 gift card.) Make sure to read reviews to confirm that the spa's a good one, he says. It can also help to book quickly after buying -- popular deals can sell hundreds of vouchers, and peak appointments fill fast.
Book during 'spa weeks'
Spa groups and beauty sites have their own versions of restaurant week, where participating businesses nationwide offer limited-time deals. SpaFinder's Wellness Week runs March 19-25, with services for $50 or 50% off. Spa Toccare at the Borgata in Atlantic City, N.J., for example, will offer a 50-minute "Rock Your Senses" massage for $75, instead of the usual $150. Spa Week Media Group has a Spa Week planned for April 16-22 with $50 treatments, and Pretty City usually hosts Med Spa Month in May with select $99 offers. Appointments for such promotions can fill up fast, but many spas will offer them in later weeks if you call and ask, says Fraenkel.