This is how Toronto's spas are surviving lockdown
Toronto's spas have had to get seriously creative in order to get through months of lockdown, during which they've had to put a hold on the direct contact with clients that makes up a big part of so many of their services.
And even though the city's stay-at-home order has officially been lifted, now that Toronto has re-entered grey zone lockdown, the challenges continue.
Caroline Santos, receptionist for California Sun Spa in Bloor West Village, said that since being closed for services in November, the spa — which is mainly focused on aesthetics, such as facial treatments, micro needling, laser hair removal, and some medical treatments — has had to plan "new strategies to still offer services and keep in touch with our clients."
"Our spa has achieved many awards over the years, built a solid clientele at Bloor West Village and people from different areas in Toronto," she added.
Helmed by owner Renata Zychla, California Sun Spa has been getting by selling exclusive products from French cosmetics brands they work with such as Yonka, GM COLLIN and Guinot, and has also been running online events.
"We are able to sell products in our online store. Also, Renata is very persistent and business oriented, she came up with the idea of hosting online events for our clients. In these events, she teaches how to do a professional facial treatment at home with our products, talks about life and skin care," says Santos.
"The feedback we have from them is absolutely amazing, they really enjoy it and always subscribe for next ones. We are also offering free online consultation, answering questions about our services and to recommend the best treatment for when we reopen.
"It would be easier for us to shut down and just wait for these difficult times to pass, but we decided to not give up."
Meanwhile, Guerlain Spa, which had just opened up at Hotel X in November 2019, has faced similar hurdles, surviving off the ability to provide registered massage therapy services at this time.
"Ultimately, COVID-19 hit all of us very unexpectedly, and it has been a challenging year having to go through these closures, Marion Le Gall, Director of Guerlain Spa, told blogTO.
Typically used to offering the likes of facials, body treatments, and bridal make-up, she added: "We have not been able to provide our lovely guests with all our treatments since Nov. 22."
However, they reopened operations and welcomed guests for RMT essential services back on Dec. 11th.
They've used social media to stay connected to their guests and to reassure them of the spa's safety and integrity, and have taken advantage of this time to invest in more in-depth training for staff.
"To survive during lockdowns, we have increased our engagement on our social pages, comfort[ed] our guests that is safe to visit us, and ensure[d] that they know we are here for them when they need us," says Le Gall.
"Beyond engagement, we have also been encouraging our staff members to catch up on online training and ongoing education initiatives. Initiatives like this are so important and make us realize that they have been hard to prioritize during a regular workweek, but now it is vital to keeping them engaged so they are ready when we reopen fully."
Guerlain is currently open seven days a week but by appointment only for "Lakeside Stone Massages" and "TO Sports Massages."
Hammam Spa, like California Sun Spa, has been around for a while, first opening in 2005, but recently opened a new Bayview Village location in 2019.
Like Guerlain, both locations are open for RMT, but Sales Manager Jennifer Harrington still says "to call this lockdown a challenge would be a massive understatement."
"We are coming up to a year of the lockdowns with only about four months that we were able to run most of our business operations. Our first time in lockdown began Mar. 16, 2020, the closure at that time was brought on by us to keep our staff and clients safe until more information and safety measures could be put into place," Harrington told blogTO.
"Registered Massage Therapists were allowed to return to work in late May. Towards the end of June, we were allowed to begin some of our other services, such as body treatments then later facials. In October they restricted services where a mask could be removed, then in November they restricted all personal services except massage therapy."
Weeks of research were put into planning strict santization protocols and making sure Hammam's environment was safe for welcoming guests. Although that has come in handy for reopening for massage therapy, Hammam wanted to continue to bring the peaceful atmosphere they're known for to their clients.
"Our spa is not just a place for pampering, but often is a place for escape. So, to survive we had to answer the question, how do we bring that escape home? We had no choice but to act quickly, developing at home manicure kits, at home curated facial kits based on skin type, and our most popular, the Home Care Kit," says Harrington.
"The Home Care Kit brings the experience of our Turkish Bath to you. It features a Kessa Mitt to exfoliate, Black Soap to cleanse and provide the aromatic relaxing scents of our spa, finishing with Céla Crème Rose body lotion to wrap your skin in silky smooth hydration."
Like Guerlain, and most businesses, the way Hammam curated its online presence has changed drastically because of the pandemic.
"Online shopping was also a major shift for us. Since 2005, the majority of our retail sales were from walk-ins, where our team could provide expert in-person knowledge on products and even offer gift wrapping, so guests could walk out with a beautiful, ready-to-go gift," says Harrington.
"Now we offer complimentary shipping, curbside pick-up, gift notes, and more to bring the personal touch back to each order. The way we use social media has also changed. Instead of using it as a platform to tell people about what we offer, we now are using it to share wellness benefits that our guests would typically experience when they visit us."
They've also been doing skin care consultations virtually and over the phone, recommending products and teaching clients how to use them. Harrington emphasizes that while restrictions have put many of their services out of commission, during this pandemic it's more important to take care of yourself than ever.
"The pandemic has demonstrated that self-care and personal wellness are more important now than ever. Our Registered Massage Therapists are developing content to share the benefits of massage therapy, and others tips like how to maintain proper posture while working from home," says Harrington.
"Our estheticians have even created an at-home manicure video, a step-by-step guide to an at-home facial, and more, anything to teach our clients how to take best care of themselves until we can see them again."
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