Massage & Bodywork

March/April 2012

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best practices BUSINESS SIDE | Q & ART | TABLE LESSONS | SAVVY SELF-CARE The Price of Massage By Laura Allen It seems that prices are always going up. You might catch that steak on sale at the grocery store or find half-price shoes at your favorite shopping destination, but the cost of most things always seems to be going in an upward direction … except for the price of massage. PRICE WARS By many accounts, there are price wars going on in the massage profession. With the proliferation of massage and day spa franchises offering memberships in metropolitan areas, city dwellers and suburbanites have discovered a way to get regular massage for less than $50 an hour. In the past couple of years, the explosion of Groupon, Living Social, and other such Daily Deal sites has caused prices to drop even lower, routinely by at least half, and sometimes by as much as 75 percent or more of what a business normally charges. While such steep discounting can be a great way to introduce the public to a new business, or to revitalize an old one, it hasn't been without repercussions. Recently, a therapist who has never participated in a Groupon deal told me that she had received several calls from people shopping for a deal and asking if she would match the Groupon price advertised by another therapist in town. She declined to do a massage for $20, and instead opted to educate the caller about why she was worth more than $20. It didn't work—the caller hung up. Some folks are obviously just looking for the cheapest thing. Groupon and the other big discounters usually don't have any presence in small towns and rural areas, but even that is not much consolation to the therapist who is being severely undercut by other therapists in the area. WHAT THE MARKET WILL BEAR I live in a small, rural town, about an hour away from several larger cities, and I often read publications from those urban areas. When I saw an ad from one of my former students offering outcalls for $30, I called and asked her Capitalize on what it is that makes you stand out from the crowd. what she was thinking by offering massage that cheaply. "I have to do it," she replied. "There's so much competition, some people are even doing it for less than I am." This particular town has no less than five massage schools, and it's not a bustling metropolis; it has a population of about 40,000 residents. It's a tourist destination, so that number swells during the summertime and the holidays. Still, with five schools each graduating two classes a year, it's easy to see how that market could be saturated. There's a theory in marketing that you can and should charge what the market will bear. In other words, if most of the people in your neighborhood are charging $60 an hour for massage, then you wouldn't want to go much higher or much lower, unless there is a really good reason. For example, if you open a luxurious day spa in a fancy galleria and have bigger overhead than a storefront practitioner, you can certainly command a premium 24 massage & bodywork march/april 2012

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