Helping Men Look Good is Good Business The Buzz


Men are increasingly seeking out products and services that help them look and feel their best. This is creating new business and career opportunities.

Peter Hillman runs a spa for men in Chicago.

"We...really wanted to start up a trend," says Hillman. "There were just a few spas across the country in major U.S. cities like New York, Los Angeles or San Francisco that targeted the males, and nothing in Chicago at the time.

"When we opened up our whole concept was to make [a place] to receive spa and grooming services much more appealing to men," Hillman adds.

Can you guess the most popular service the spa offers? "Massage, no doubt, is our number one treatment," says Hillman. "Guys are coming in to relax, get rid of day-to-day stress or sport injuries, or things of that sort."

Busy professionals such as lawyers and managers are common clients at the spa. They often get massages to deal with stress.

Men who go to spas are also concerned about their appearance. They want their skin to look healthy and youthful.

"What's really been surprising is the growth of men's skin care," says Hillman. "We've just seen such an interest in men learning a little bit more about skin care, taking better care of their skin, whether it be facials or waxing or things of that sort... The industry as a whole is really growing, where it's okay now for guys to start taking care of themselves a little better."

Before starting his spa, Hillman worked with a number of consultants and did a lot of research. It was a bold move to open a spa for men when the vast majority of spa customers are female.

"A lot of people thought, 'You're crazy, because you're knocking out 70 percent of the spa market,'" says Hillman. But he moved forward, confident that there was a high enough concentration of professional males with disposable incomes in Chicago to support the business. He was right.

Hillman's spa keeps lots of employees busy. For example, they have 17 massage therapists, three estheticians that focus on skincare, and three nail technicians. And there are additional employees working in customer service and management.

The growing focus on men's appearance is also keeping image consultants busy. Image consultants advise men (and women) on how to dress, how to groom themselves, and how to behave in business and other formal settings.

Colin D'Arcy, an image consultant in Florida, says men usually seek his advice regarding two things: image and table manners.

D'Arcy says men are most likely to use an image consultant at the start of their career or when they're in middle management and seeking to move into senior positions. "I've done a lot with salespeople and I've done a lot with executives on the fast track," he says.

One time, there was a senior executive at a major corporation who was turned down for a promotion because he wasn't very good at interacting with others.

"The CEO of the company liked the fellow and realized that he needed some improvement in his social skills. The company engaged me to work with him one-on-one for six months," says D'Arcy.

D'Arcy is usually hired by the top leadership of a corporation to work with a large group of people within the company rather than with specific individuals. You might wonder: Why not just help out the people who need it most?

"I do not like companies to single out executives," explains D'Arcy. "If you do that, then you really put people in a difficult, awkward position, because then it's telling them pretty bluntly that they need work. Whereas if you say, 'I'll do all my executive vice-presidents,' which includes some of those people [who most need help], then you don't hurt anybody's feelings."

D'Arcy has noticed a growing trend of men being concerned about their image and appearance. He sees two main reasons for this trend.

"One, the economy has put a lot of people out of work, so a lot of people have to sharpen their social skills -- make sure they come across as being 'with it,' as being socially adept," says D'Arcy.

"Secondly, even those that are currently employed want to give themselves an added advantage. They want to put themselves in a position where they're promotable and they therefore seek these opportunities for coaching and training."

Looking good is often a way for men to feel more confident, says Catherine Bell. She is the president of an image consulting company.

"The confidence of just feeling ready because they've put together the wardrobe that they're going to wear, they've thought about their grooming, they've thought about the message they want to convey, which is what we talk about -- do you want to be friendly or do you want to be powerful?" says Bell. "I give them strategies on that."

Bell also says that men seem to be paying more attention to their appearance in recent years. One factor is the media.

"There's more pressure from the media to look good -- the whole idea of working out and having a buff body," says Bell.

"They're taking better care [of their appearance] and many of them are using hair stylists rather than barbers for their haircuts," Bell adds. "There's that change, where men always went to a barber [in the past]."

Image consultants such as Bell often have certification from the Association of Image Consultants International, which has 1,300 members worldwide. There are three levels of certification based on training and experience.

Those who help men look their best say it's a rewarding area in which to work. It feels good to help people look good.

"It's a very rewarding industry to be in because people are so thankful," says Bell. "And their self esteem and self confidence is increased."

Links

International Spa Association
Check out the latest industry stats

Association of Image Consultants International
Includes membership information

Professional Beauty Association
The association that represents the interests of the professional beauty industry

SIR Spa
Check out the wide range of services for men as well as grooming tips