Magazine article Marketing

Profile: World Peace - Susan Harmsworth, Founder and Chief Executive, ESPA International

Magazine article Marketing

Profile: World Peace - Susan Harmsworth, Founder and Chief Executive, ESPA International

Article excerpt

Even though she owns hundreds of spas across the world, Susan Harmsworth's Christmas was anything but relaxing. The ESPA chief executive's extended family ran amok in her Guildford, Surrey, home over the festive period, and now she is off to the US to check on spas in development; ESPA has six openings planned for the first few months of 2005.

The company, which Harmsworth founded, is in the enviable position of being a prestigious, established name in a booming sector.

Spas are no longer the preserve of the rich and female; an increasing number of men are visiting them (Harmsworth estimates that 40% of ESPA clients are male), Champneys, the middle-range spa chain, is increasingly popular with people of all ages, and even Haven, the family-focused holiday firm, is trialling a spa in its Devon park.

Such is the extent of Brits' newfound preoccupation with pampering that VisitBritain and the Spa Business Association are conducting the first national survey of UK venues to encourage the continued growth of the industry and to set quality benchmarks.

The most recent demographic being linked with spas is teenagers. Despite the revenue they bring in, Harmsworth does not approve of youngsters invading her tranquil environments. 'This trend appalls me,' she says.

'Bloody teenagers - have you read the statistics on the money they're making?'

Harmsworth, who is 'turning 60', has strong opinions on spas. A pioneer of the sector, her first venture into the business was in Toronto in 1970. Since then, she has been responsible for top-class spas all over the world, including a stint opening them at sea.

'People are buying experiences rather than things,' she says. 'Community and family are becoming more important; me-time is precious.' She partly attributes the shift in focus to stress - a concept, she claims, that was never mentioned 20 years ago.

Despite her global outlook and ESPA's incorporation of spa knowledge from many countries, Harmsworth is British, with a surprisingly unglamorous education at Kingston Polytechnic.

She grew up in a family of entrepreneurs and academics. This background, coupled with a passion for 'plants, herbs, lotions and potions', culminated in her creation of ESPA 11 years ago. …

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