From the source: Melanie Gleeson, Endota Spa

Melanie Gleeson Endota SpaBIO: Melanie Gleeson

Melanie Gleeson is the founder and CEO of Endota Spa. As a young 26-year-old, Gleeson pursued a hunch that relaxation and mindfulness would become more important in customers’ lives.

Today, Endota Spa is now the largest day spa network and wellness provider in Australia The business has 100 locations across Australia and employs over 1,000 people, 90 per cent of whom are women.

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Inside Retail Weekly: What have been some of the highlights for Endota this year?

MG: There have been so many highlights. We’ve seen our current network of spas continue to grow and expand into new regions and territories throughout Australia and we’re looking at growth in the Queensland and New South Wales markets, so that’s been exciting. 

As we’ve opened retail outlets, we’ve unveiled a new retail design. That really brings to life the services that we offer behind the relaxation room door to the front of the house, which is important. 

At the start of the year, we moved into a new head office space, which is completely gorgeous. It really aligns with our values – we’ve got beautiful spaces for meditation and a communal kitchen area, it really speaks to the brand more than any other space we’ve had in the past. We’ve worked out of tin sheds and all sorts of places, so I feel like we’ve grown up now that we finally have a beautiful, proper office finally.

Then we’ve also launched our new treatments and New Age product range, so we’ve had a busy year training all our therapists in those new treatments and new products, which come into store in mid-December. It’s been a big big year.

Inside Retail Weekly: Can you tell me about the rollout of these new refurbished spas?

MG: We’re doing it slowly. There’s been an evolution of our fitouts over a period of time and we’re looking to bring elements of the latest one into our older stores.

The new retail design really emphasises our product and treatment experimentation, so we’re trying to bring some of that sensory journey the customer experiences in the treatment room out into our retail spaces. It’s been designed so our clients feel comfortable just walking in to look around – they don’t have to book a treatment and they can stay and play a bit longer. We’ve got beautiful new play bars where they can touch and feel the product and an LED treatment which can be experienced at front of house.

We’re also bringing more of our rituals in our treatment rooms to the front of store, so people can take that spa feeling home and create their own havens. We’ll be introducing new oil diffusers and we’ve got egg lights – everything in the treatment room that you can place around your home.

IRW: A lot of retailers are now offering their customers services in their physical stores, but I guess, Endota has done it the other way around.

When we started, it was very much from a service and treatment background, but about five years into the journey, we knew we needed our own brand of product. It came from the therapists and clients who wanted to use something we developed, so it was a great opening for us to look into that area and the first range we launched was our certified organic range, so for us that has strong heritage with the brand and we use it in treatments and at home.

Our products are either certified natural or organic – a lot of products don’t go that extra step into getting certification, but it was important for us that our clients could see the credibility of having that attached to us. And our therapists wanted to say, ‘We’re using this in your treatment today, which you can take it home if you wish.’

IRW: How has the relatively recent interest in health and wellness impacted Endota?

MG: It’s a change in consciousness because at the beginning, people would have a treatment as a one-off, it was a treat for them and for us, it was a lot about educating people about what a day spa even was.

Now, people see it as an absolute must. They regularly take time out for their mind body and spirit and what we’re noticing is people love to come to these havens that we’ve created to absolutely disconnect from the craziness of life and take a moment to be still.

We had customers saying, ‘I’d be happy if I could just sit in your waiting area!’ They just want the smell and calmness that it provides, but the real change has been in people seeing spas as a treat to now seeing something that’s been mandatory for your health and wellbeing and being the best version of yourself. You have to take care of yourself. It’s a habit.

I think people see Endota as a wellness leader in the space. They trust us, we have a huge database of very loyal customers and they look to us for advice and a place where they can go. The first yoga camp I went on was when I in year 10, so I’ve been practicing this lifestyle from school until now, but it’s really just gained momentum. It’s so necessary when we live in high stress, which the majority of us are, but we’re learning that we need to slow down as well.

IRW: What are some of the biggest challenges for Endota?

MG: I think the biggest one for us is because our heritage and our essence is less about beauty and it’s more about inner wellness and your emotional wellbeing, we have to make sure that everything we do aligns with us, from product development and marketing to how we train therapists.

It has to sit across the whole brand, that’s been challenging for us through periods of real growth. I’ve got to make sure that I’m getting to all our people and sharing our values, so that they’re telling the story and they become their values and intentions as well.

We’ve grown quickly and we’ve been learning how to manage that while keeping the culture right – we have to get the right people and when you grow, you need everyone on the same page. We’ve got 100 stores, but we’ve been doing a roadshow with our therapists and we’ve got 1000 therapists in the network and we do an amazing rewards and recognition program for them.

I don’t want our values or culture to be something that you just say. They have to be embedded, because we’re so much about how we make people feel and if we don’t feel right within themselves, we can’t deliver those treatments, so everything we do is so embedded into the feeling people get when they leave our spas.

IRW: What plans do you have for 2018?

MG: In 2018, we will hopefully rollout that new retail concept across the group and then bring more of the LED treatments and activations to front of store. We’re going to increase our product offering, so we’re in development of some new ranges that incorporate wellness and other aspects of skincare and we’ll also have an Endota wellness college.

It’s only early days, but in our space, there have been a lot of colleges over the years that teach beauty therapy, but we wanted to be able to teach with wellness at the forefront of what we’re doing, so the college will have trained therapists who come out and into our stores already with the same values that we have. The big plan is to have the college in a few different spots around Australia.

IRW: Now that you’ve got more than 100 spa locations around Australia, how do you ensure that you maintain that connection with the customer and your staff, too?

MG: We’ve got 1000 therapists in our network and it’s really about communicating and training with them because they’re the ones out there doing treatments. They’re our ambassadors looking after our clients day in and day out and invested in our brand, but they also need to be a reflection of our brand. So we do enormous amounts of training, workshops, events, communication so that everybody is on the same page. That in itself is a whole arm of our business – training and service development. We’re not just a retailer, no way.

We’ve just come off a conference, where we had three days with our business owners, which is all about inspiration and growth. There are 80 of us, then we go straight from that into our reward and recognition night – the whole training team goes on a roadshow and we speak with all our therapists in our network, so it’s a huge undertaking. It’s something we absolutely see as a must. We do that once a year, but throughout the year, we have training in spas and we have heaps of online education as well, so our therapists stay connected with our brand.

We’re looking at a whole new customer engagement program and as part of that, we’ve held focus groups with our customers over the past 18 months which has been interesting. I’ve been hearing firsthand what our customers think and feel about the brand.

I was sitting in the waiting area the other day in one of our spas, and actually listening to people once they finish their treatments – it’s amazing to hear the feedback the therapists get, like ‘That’s the best massage I ever had’ and ‘Oh my God, I have to do this more often for myself’. So just by sitting, listening and witnessing what people are saying after treatment is priceless. It’s so rewarding and gets to the heart of what we’re delivering.

IRW: I know Endota does some interesting work with indigenous communities. What’s involved there?

MG: We work with a group of indigenous artists located in Fitzroy Crossing who supply artwork to us for some of our packaging. We did a recent collaboration with them for our Christmas gift packs and a percentage of our sales goes to those communities to support the women with art materials and different courses. That’s been a lovely partnership and I’ve been out to the Crossing and met the ladies. We’ve been very lucky to work with that great group of women.

I went to a school that had three rules – respect for yourself, others and the environment. They taught us lot about our heritage, so I have been very  aware as I’ve grown that there are original owners of this land that have great wisdom that benefit us all today – they have a deep knowledge of their connection with nature, so that love has just stayed with me in regards to our indigenous culture.

IRW: With 100 locations in Australia under your belt, do you see a future overseas for Endota?

MG: Overseas is on the radar. We’re doing the research now, we’re looking into what countries, why, how – all of that stuff. It’ll be an exciting stage for us. It’s a bit fragmented – from what we can see, there aren’t many big brands in this space overseas. There’s a lot of brands in purely cosmetics, but not in wellness, so it’ll be interesting. We’re not sure yet whether we’ll look into launching our products first and then a spa entry. Honestly, if you could see one of our walls right now, it has all the countries all over it and then the why, where, how of how to enter them – we’re just at the beginning of the process. In some places, we might go in with distribution and in others, we may go into department stores – there is so much opportunity, it’s about picking the right thing for us.

 

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