Most of the licensed massage therapists in town charge $60 to $80 for a one hour massage session. There are some cheaper and some more expensive, but for the most part we are all relatively comparable in our service fees. We have always known that massage schools offered great deals for clients willing to let a student give them a massage, and since they were students we were not alarmed when the masses snatched up bargain massages from the therapists in training. When Massage Envy rolled into our city there were a great many therapists that were angry and fearful that our small businesses would not be able to sustain our livelihoods when we were forced to compete with a national chain.
Massage Envy charges $39 for a 1-hour introductory massage session. If the client becomes a "member" their dues are $49 per month and the client receives a 1-hour massage session during that month. The client is also able to purchase unlimited additional 1-hour massage sessions for $39. Their facility is nice, their prices are good and they have great marketing materials. Do I consider them serious competition? They are indeed competition. Serious competition? No. My reasons?
If you do a tiny bit of research online you will find a great deal of bad reviews from former employees of Massage Envy. They pay their massage therapists a mere $15 per hour or $17 if the client is returning and specifically requests a therapist. This might sound like good pay if you have not researched the job market for massage therapy or this is the first job you are offered straight out of massage school. Most companies that offer massage therapy will pay therapists on a split percentage of the fees charged for their services. Typically the therapist gets 50% of the fee. At my clinic I offer my therapists 65% of the fee as they are doing the work and I am just providing the space and materials. Guess who has a better employee retention rate?
Massage Envy also advertises their sessions as 1-hour massages. The truth is that the session is 50-minutes of actual massage time. At my clinic, if the client arrives on time for their massage appointment, the hour starts when the therapist begins massaging--not when we are doing the intake paperwork. Our clients are guaranteed to receive a full 60-minute massage....and sometimes we go over a few minutes if we know a wee bit more massage time will make a big difference in the body. We also allow 30 minutes downtime between clients so the therapists are fresh and ready to give their best work. The therapists at Massage Envy do not have this option so the client may schedule an appointment with a great therapist but not get a great massage due to the therapist being worn out.
So for arguments sake, assume that massage therapists at Massage Envy are just as skilled and talented as every other massage therapist in the community. During a recession, in order to compete with a national chain, will a small clinic need to adjust fees for massage services? Absolutely! Massage Envy markets a tough economy beautifully by saying they make massage affordable for everyone. So my answer to the price difference is twofold. Everyone can appreciate a bargain, but most also think you get what you pay for. If I am shopping for shorts or socks I am perfectly content to shop at Wal-mart. If I am shopping for a cocktail dress I am going to hit the mall or boutique. In the massage world, if I am looking for a simple relaxation massage I am open to seeing a student or a new therapist. If I am looking for specific treatment for my neck or low back, I am going to pay more and see an experienced therapist that knows what they are doing. I tend to think people that get massage fairly regularly feel the same as I do and do not mind paying more if they feel they are getting their money's worth.
The second part of my competing with the chain is that I offer package deals. If a client likes our work and they are interested in re-booking, we suggest our package deal. When a client prepays for 4 massages, we give them a 5th massage for free. This is a 20% savings and if you divide the cost by 5 massages, it makes our 60-minute massage a value-priced $48, or as Massage Envy says "for a fraction of what you can find elsewhere". The package deal keeps our clients coming fairly regularly which makes them feel better and it makes our jobs easier....plus we get paid. It is a win win situation.
Finally, I tell people that there will always be clients that want bargains and those that want premium services. Some will pay $10 for haircuts and others will pay $50. When people find a hairstylist that does their hair just the way they like it, they will return. Massage clients are the same. If you give them a great massage, like the Terminator, they will be back. Meet their needs and they will gladly pay your prices. Don't meet their needs and see how long it takes them to try the discount massage chain. As for me, I will take Massage Price and Value for $60, Alex.