Five Qs: Peggy Davis of LaVida Massage

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LaVida Massage in Brighton, with 18 locations in Michigan, is growing by 25 to 30 percent each year since opening in 2007; and plans to have 75 massage, health, and wellness locations across the U.S. by the end of 2015. CEO Peggy Davis spoke with DBusiness Daily News about the company’s evolution and business model.

1. DDN: Your company launched right before the Great Recession — how were you able to succeed?

PD: When we started, we had no idea (the recession) was coming on, or that it would be coming on as strong as it did. I’m not going to say it was easy. It was definitely difficult, but I am surprised at how well we did for being what people would typically consider a luxury-based service. The thing is, we don’t think of it as a luxury. We market it as a kind of health service. We get a lot of references from doctors, and a lot of insurances cover (our services). The biggest thing doctors recommend it for is pain management, and we also have a lot of people come in for stress reduction.

2. DDN: What benefits are there to offering customer memberships?

PD: The idea is that everyone should have a massage at least once a month, so our membership is a monthly fee ranging from $49 to $59 depending on the region. It includes one free massage and all additional massages are at a reduced price (around $45). Members also receive discounts on all products and services. We are able to give members these great prices because our model is based on volume. The everyday, or non-member, prices are around 30 percent higher. We believe that by keeping our membership affordable, our guests will realize the “addictive” qualities of massage —massage really does make you feel better both physically and mentally. More massages equals higher volume, (which) equals company growth.

3. DDN: What kind of growth rate are you looking at?

PD: We have nearly 60 centers now, and we’re growing about 25 percent to 35 percent each year. We would like to continue at that (same) rate. I would like to see our stores up to 75 by the end of 2015, so we’re launching a new franchise website at the beginning of next year to recruit new franchisees. Our biggest growth areas right now are in Virginia, Maryland, the (Washington) D.C. beltline, and Georgia. Florida and Tennessee are also big. We’re just plugging away.

4. DDN: Do you have any plans to extend the services of the company?

PG: We do offer esthetic services in many of our centers, such as facials and waxing. We also have launched our own line of essential oils and a few branded bath products. We are always looking for products and services that align with our business model, but our main focus will always remain on massage.

5. DDN: What challenges are there in your industry?

PD: I think that the industry is growing so fast that it is difficult to keep up with the demand for therapists. We use job recruitment sites, referrals from therapists, and we go directly to the schools to recruit. Each (LaVida) center has 15 to 25 therapists that must graduate from an accredited program and pass the state or national boards to be licensed. Our centers employ only licensed therapists.

Editor’s note: This article was corrected to read that LaVida Massage is headquartered in Brighton. 

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