Standalone luxury brand spas are poised to become the next trend.
The latest opening is Augustinus Bader’s Skin Lab at luxury store The Webster in New York City. The Skin Lab, the first in the U.S. and second-ever location, opened Feb. 22. The first location, in London, opened in January as a partnership with health resort Lanserhof. Augustinus Bader, founded in 2018, joins a host of other luxury brands like Dr. Barbara Sturm and Biologique Recherche in creating its own standalone boutique spas, a deviation from the usual hotel spa partnership favored by brands like La Mer, Guerlain, and La Prairie.
“Some brands try to 100% control the [sales] and customer experiences on a retail level. It’s our opinion today that retailers are good and that’s their job,” said Charles Rosier, CEO of Augustinus Bader. “We feel our job is to create products and [don’t] necessarily want to express our brand by controlling retail.”
This latest luxury development is reminiscent of the untethering seen in previous years by services like blowouts, facials and medical aesthetics. Companies like Face Haus and Heyday, for example, created specialized boutique spaces just to perform facials outside the usual hotel spas or otherwise large establishments. In this case, luxury brands have taken this concept and, instead of seeking a revenue opportunity, they’re looking to build brand equity. Rosier did not disclose how much it cost to build the Skin Lab locations. There are no additional locations planned for 2023, he said.
Augustinus Bader has leapfrogged in sales since its launch in 2018. According to Forbes, the brand went from $7 million in sales in 2018 to $70 million in 2020 and $120 million in 2021. Charles Rosier, CEO of Augustinus Bader, said sales grew by just over 50% year-over-year in 2022, which would mean Augustinus Bader earned approximately $200 million. In Nov. 2022, Augustinus Bader raised $25 million at a $1 billion valuation, led by Impala and General Atlantic.
“We are 100% in control of the experience. It’s even more interesting for us to reshape the experience the way we want, from the feeling of entering the location to experiencing the treatment,” said Rosier. “Our product and our commitment to our communities is efficacy. Our products require a certain investment, but we want our community to feel it’s an investment in their skin and to see an improvement in their skin health.”
Other luxury brands have expressed similar sentiments and justifications for their standalone boutique spas. Dr. Barbara Sturm opened its first physical store, with facial services, in May 2019. Previously, it only had a clinic in Dusseldorf, Germany. It now operates a total of six, including in London, Dallas and Miami.
“Charging into retail at a moment when many businesses are fleeing physical space for online was a conscious decision,” said Sturm, CEO of her namesake brand, at the time. “[It is] driven by my desire to give customers and clients a place beyond an e-commerce experience, or an experience as a patient in my German clinic.”
Then, heritage French skin-care brand Biologique Recherche opened its first branded location in the U.S. in Aug. 2022, in Los Angeles. Biologique Recherche is otherwise distributed in hundreds of spas globally. The L.A. outpost offers treatments for the face, body and scalp. Margot Humbert, U.S. gm for Biologique Recherche, said at the time that the brand wanted to “showcase a full brand experience.”
“We want to open more [spas], which will serve as flagship locations to help us build awareness and traction for the brand in strategic regions,” she said.
There are indications that more luxury branded boutique spas will open up. For example, La Prairie only has two spas in North America, both of which are offered through luxury hotels. There are no free-standing spas or stores, but its first standalone brick-and-mortar location is rumored to open in the spring in Zurich, although it is not certain if facial services will be offered. In July 2022, 111Skin opened its own facial spa in London, attached to the medical clinic where the brand was founded, by Dr. Yannis Alexandrides and his wife, Eva Alexandridis. The brand is otherwise sold through retailers like Harrods and offers facials through hotel partners. In a slightly different approach, La Maison Valmont opened its first flagship boutique in the U.S. in 2022, complemented by the fact that it is within The Carlyle hotel in New York where it has a pre-existing spa.
“When you’re at a department store or Sephora or any place where you shop for products, it’s busy and noisy, or you might not have the time to speak to a sales representative for half an hour,” said Rosier. “It’s a very different experience, and brands are trying to interact with their community in different ways with different touch points.”