Massage Envy opens 600th location: What does this mean for independent massage businesses?

In a press release dated December 1, 2009 Massage Envy announced the opening of its 600th clinic in Laguna Beach California. According to the press release, “The Laguna Beach, California, location is opening as a Massage Envy Spa, a model the franchisor introduced earlier this year featuring an exclusive partnership with Murad® International, one of the world’s most respected skincare experts. This exciting concept offers guests Murad® healthy skincare treatments and rejuvenating massage therapy administered by professional estheticians and massage therapists.”

Many independent massage therapists and practices grow increasingly concerned about Massage Envy’s expansion as they have difficulty competing with the franchise chain. Some therapists believe that Massage Envy lowers the value and credibility of massage therapy by providing discounted prices often with therapists just out of massage school. Others, however, believe that Massage Envy has provided a service to the massage industry by making massage more affordable to the general public and by providing a legitimate clinic atmosphere for massage in the wake of constant news coverage of illegitimate businesses using massage as a front.

It appears that independent massage practices and day spas must find a way to compete with the “Massage Envys” of the world or they may become Massage Envy 601, 602, 603….

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  1. The opening of Massage Envy’s 600th location is cause for celebration within the massage industry. Why? Because Massage Envy has brought massage therapy into the light of day by placing stores in strip malls and other office parks all over the USA. Even though there have been independent massage businesses in such locations before, the standardization brought about by the existence of a major national chain brings with it an increasing level of confidence on the part of the consumer, which is a critical building block in the growth of the industry.

    Clearly, there will be some independent massage businesses threatened by the opening of ME stores in nearby locations. But the nature of the independent is that he/she has the ability to adapt to changing circumstances.

    The rapid growth of Massage Envy, more than any other development in the industry, has clarified for many people that massage is a regular, ordinary personal service to seek, in line with manicures, pedicures, gym workouts, etc.

    By bringing massage to the strip mall, Massage Envy is in the process of de-mystifying massage and bodywork for millions of people who have never had a massage. And what that means for all massage therapists is that there will be many more clients and customers to serve today and tomorrow.

    As in the restaurant industry, did the advent of McDonald’s mean the death of small restaurants? Of course not. It merely ushered in an entire era of growth in the realm of fast food encompassing many different cuisine styles, and even within the burger industry (think: McD’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, In ‘n Out Burger, Bob’s)

    Similarly, the growth of McDonald’s in no way limited the ability of restaurants to seek a high-end clientele. One seeks out the desired dining experience, and sometimes McDonald’s fits. In the same way, there will always be a space within the massage industry for the personalized, high-end (and higher priced) massage therapists who cater to clients who expect to receive massage therapy in their own homes, or within the spa environment.

    But the key good news about Massage Envy is that massage has never been more respectable, and will only become more respectable as the industry continues to grow.

  2. Interesting article and comment, If reiki could now be seen as a legit treatment. That would be progess.

  3. from an Independent Massage Therapist: WELL SAID, JOHN! (just sorry I can’t get the font any bigger here…)

    Addendum: I really like the McDonald’s analogy – IMTs need only to realize that Massage Envy just creates a demystified vision (er, uh, ‘version’) of what massage is – each professional massage practitioner, employed or independent, has the obligation and ability to retain their own clientele. No matter the circumstance.

  4. I have to whole heartily disagree with John G. although the “demystification” of the whole massage experience may be brought about by stuff ME into the malls – more time then not, at least in both my personal and client experiences, they’ve been turned off by the cafeteria style presentation of services. I and my long standing clients were very upset and put off by the trickery that ME applies in their methods. They get you in the door for some low cost 30 minutes session, and the nickel-and-dime you with various add-ons since basically you’re stuck there and end up paying for ONCE (since you’re so put off by the experience – you vow never to return). Additionally, I “checked out” three different locations within proximity to my spa, and the tech’s (its a stretch to call them masseuses) were obviously well coached in up-selling and had very very little practical skills and any level of empathy for someone with physical issues. Long-term I don’t think folks will repeat into ME’s, but I for one can capitalize on their lack of empathy and turn the quick buck mentality into a campaign for our personalized and dedicated skills offered by our local spa (to use John’s analogy, you can have a cheap hamburger, and question what it is you’re really eating for $2 @ macD’s, or enjoy a high quality prime USDA hamburger with us for a few dollars more). Plus I won’t even get into the horror stories from the massage professionals I’ve interviewed that were former ME workers.

  5. I applaud the Massage Envys,Elites, spas, etc. the more people that are exposed to our profession at these locations, usually with just out of school “new” professionals, the more clientele I will have being prepped and prepared to join my practice in the near future. I am already reaping the results, I just had my third “massage envy” client come to my practice because they needed a “real” therapeutic massage that could help heal their pain due to chronic muscle injury. Welcome to my practice!

  6. I am an employee of Massage Envy and I have to tell you I am happy! I am requested and average of 60 times a month which 99% is repeat clients. Many of my clients and clients who come to our facility are impressed with our therapist. A majority of our clients were not happy with their individual therapist and or think we give the best massages they have ever experienced. We have therapist with experience, empathy, compassion,and a love for the profession. Not every therapist is the same and neither is the facility.

  7. Isn’t everyone making blanketed statements about Massage professionals and ME’s everywhere. Stereotypes and horror stories about Massage therapists have existed long before Massage Envy was ever conceived, so to say that ME and their therapists are giving the industry a bad name is not being truthful.

    Also, therapists are as indivdual as the people who get them. How could anyone seriously say that all therapists who work at ME are awful and lack compassion? And on the flip side, how can you say that every massage giving at ME is amazing and the therapists the best, because the opposing view wouldn’t exist if it were not true.

    Lastly, For those independents who think that every therapist at ME is new, awful, etc, that is NOT TRUE! I worked there and some people were great therapists but chose a consistant income over the unknown. New people entering the field can be more compassionate and excited about helping clients than veterans, and we got a lot of repeat clients, who loved are work. There could have been some who didn’t but we never would have known, because they don’t come back. I’m sure EVERYONE could relate to that right?

    Well, I’m off my high horse and I wish everyone the best, but I think that we should all be supporting eachother and not make sweeping statements about anyone or even group of people.


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