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Self-Care Foot Traffic: Have Top Brands Made a Pandemic Recovery?

The data shows that COVID hit the massage, spa, and esthetician industry hard.

Studying Foot Traffic Patterns

To study foot traffic performance at massage parlors, spas, and estheticians in the US, we used Unacast Now and Tableau to build an interactive map visualizing the performance of the Top 10 most visited brands by local, state, and national figures. The data presented here was gathered between January 1, 2019 and December 31, 2021.

All but the most visited of the top 10 US brands suffered downward-trending traffic throughout the 2019-2021 period. Almost all of them experienced plummeting visitation in early 2020 when the pandemic first struck, and while they have recovered since, most have not yet attracted enough visitors to return to 2019 levels.

Comparing Brand Success

But 2022 presents a fresh opportunity for the businesses in this category, which largely saw rising traffic over the past year.

Using foot traffic data, we’ll delve into how the top massage parlors, spas, and estheticians stack up nationally, how they fare across regions, and what questions they should explore further to enhance operations and drive revenue. 

How Top US Massage Parlors, Spas, and Estheticians Stack Up

The nation’s top-performing massage parlors, spas, and estheticians by foot traffic from 2019 to 2021 are as follows:

  1. Regal Nails Salon & Spa
  2. Massage Envy
  3. European Wax Center
  4. Palm Beach Tan
  5. Hand and Stone
  6. Sun Tan City
  7. Elements Therapeutic Massage
  8. Amazing Lash Studio
  9. Waxing The City
  10. Massage Heights

Check out our interactive workbook below! The first page shows total foot traffic by U.S. state. Click on Page 2 to view visit length to traffic comparison for major self-care brands.

Exploring the Results

Only Regal Nails Salon & Spa, the category leader, experienced upward-trending traffic from 2019 to 2021.

In fact, the pandemic hardly seems to have dented Regal’s traffic, which climbed from about 1 million to 3 million total visitors. Regal’s outstanding performance should spark curiosity for both the brand and its competitors.

  • Did Regal deploy replicable strategies to stave off the worst of the pandemic?
  • Did they go deep on marketing when others pulled back?
  • Did they implement cutting-edge safety practices that reassured customers?

Considering the foot traffic data alongside further research could help massage and spa brands better understand what has driven Regal’s edge.

The other brands’ performance over the past few years largely followed the trend one might expect given the timeline of COVID.

For example, Massage Envy, the #2 brand nationwide, saw traffic dip from more than 2 million in 2019 to less than 1 million in the early days of COVID. Now, traffic has been hovering just below the 2 million mark for about a year.

European Wax Center, the #3 brand, followed an almost identical pattern.

The lower-performing brands might delve further into the data, examining whether going deeper than the topline trends can tell them something about how their performance differed from brands other than Regal, and whether there are lessons to be unearthed in those more granular nuances.

Regional Differences in Massage, Spa, and Esthetician Foot Traffic

Regal commands the #1 position in nearly two dozen states, conquering much of the Mountain West, Midwest, and South. Notably, the brand lags its #2 and #3 rivals Massage Envy and European Wax Center in the population and commercial powerhouses of California and New York.

The top five brands in each of those states are as follows:

California

  1. Massage Envy
  2. European Wax Center
  3. Happy Nails & Spa
  4. Itan
  5. Amazing Lash Studio

New York

  1. European Wax Center
  2. Massage Envy
  3. Regal Nails Salon & Spa
  4. Hand and Stone
  5. Beach Bum Tanning & Airbrush Salon
Massage Envy’s strategy is not limited to the cosmopolitan population centers of California and New York. In fact, it plays in many state markets and is the #2 brand nationwide.

That might lead Massage Envy to question why it is relatively powerful in the coastal centers and why. Despite running locations in the country’s vast middle, it has not staked out a leadership position in almost any of those state markets.

Is this merely a question of resource allocation and store volume? Or is there a cultural or operational difference driving Massage Envy’s relatively strong performance on the coasts and weak results in landlocked states?

The same questions apply to European Wax Center, which ranks #1 in New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Illinois, but nowhere else.

A survey of state-by-state performance raises some avenues of investigation for lower-performing brands, too.

  • Sun Tan City, #6 nationwide, is #1 in Maine and Vermont, but also in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Iowa.
  • Palm Beach Tan, #4 nationwide, is #1 in North Dakota and Nebraska, but also in Nevada and the Deep South.
What is driving the scattered performance for both brands? Can further trends be established and replicated in marketing, site selection, or operations?

Recommendations

The pandemic has dealt massage parlors, spas, and estheticians a tough hand, but traffic has been flat or on the rise for about a year.

This signals a renewed opportunity for growth. The foot traffic data suggests that the category’s top US brands might investigate the following opportunities:

  • Regal’s performance has been outstanding throughout the pandemic. The brand should determine just how it bucked the trend and whether those practices can be reinforced; other brands might seek to determine and replicate aspects of Regal’s playbook. 
  • The #2 and #3 brands, Massage Envy and European Wax Center, are very popular on the coasts but largely lose out to Regal in the country’s many landlocked states. Is this a predictable part of the brands’ strategy or a weakness they can and should ameliorate?
  • Sun Tan City and Palm Beach Tan are the leading brands in a somewhat surprising smattering of states. Each of them would do well to take stock of their foot traffic performance and determine whether they can expand their dominance to nearby markets.

This is only the beginning of what foot traffic analysis can reveal for massage parlors, spas, estheticians, and other brick-and-mortar businesses.

Unacast data scientists can take you through the data, unearthing deeper trends and business opportunities. Schedule to speak to a Unacast representative today.

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