Trend: The Wellth Divide Is Widening: Super-Expensive Wellness Is on the Rise
The pandemic brought new demands for a less elitist wellness market, but it also fueled growing wealth disparity–so we’re seeing more expensive, exclusive wellness than ever before: $4,000/night room rates at new wellness hotels, $75 million wellness condos, $200,000 cosmetic procedures, and a surge in private, expensive wellness social clubs (or the Soho-House-ification of wellness)
In our mid-year 2022 trends report we argued that a new post-pandemic wellness consumer was rising, and that one of their key traits was a fatigue with wellness as elitist hyper-consumerism: People want more accessible and affordable wellness. The desires–and idealism and hope–for a less elitist wellness market coming out of the pandemic are very real. But no one is really talking about how, because of the real economic fallout from the pandemic–where the rich are richer and the rest of us are facing an inflation crunch–we’re actually seeing an even more polarized wellness market. We think it’s important to talk about.
What inflation? The wealthy are spending on luxury and wellness like crazy:
The new “wealthier wellness” is a symptom of the fact that businesses that serve high-income consumers continue to be immune to the difficult economy. If most people are struggling with soaring food, gas and travel prices, the economic reports are rolling in showing that the current luxury market is booming–a market where sneakers fetch $1,200 and sports cars easily command $300,000. Companies catering to the ultra-rich, such as the parent companies of Dior and Louis Vuitton, just reported super-strong sales, while the Walmarts and Gaps slashed financial forecasts. Lamborghini is sold out until 2024. Wealthy Chinese consumers are splurging on luxury goods. Virtuoso recently reported that luxury travel is clocking big numbers, that high-end travelers plan to spend 34% more in 2023, and that wellness-focused trips saw the biggest gains this year. A BUPA Global survey of people in the UK worth more than $1.2 million revealed that they spent an average of $138,000 on health and wellness over the past 18 months.
The state of WELLTH:
If wellness is a more important value across classes now, the wealthy have the spending power, and they’re now spending like crazy on travel, beauty and wellness. So, the wellness market is doubling down on high-end consumers, and the luxury wellness market is rolling out new (yes, amazing) destinations and experiences at eye-watering prices, and with models of greater exclusivity, than ever before. We’re talking $200,000 initial club membership fees at the new urban wellness resort, Aman New York–$69,000 psychedelic retreats from Journeymen Collective–and hotel spas moving beyond massages and facials to offer expensive medical-wellness and high-tech treatments, from cryotherapy to genetic testing–such as $12,000-a-pop, one-hour stem cell treatments at the Four Seasons Resort Maui. A key aspect of this trend is the rise of exclusive social wellness clubs where memberships can cost thousands a month, often with mysterious member-vetting processes based on “referrals.”
Some examples of the new, even wealthier wellness:
There are signs of the more expensive wellness and beauty everywhere: from $900 Gucci-branded, sleep-tracking Oura rings to the New York Times reporting on how luxury cosmetic procedures are reaching next-level prices, ushering in a new era of the $200,000 facelift.
New wellness resorts are more focused on exclusivity and personalization: They have unprecedented amenities and offerings and unprecedented prices.
Aman Resorts is the poster-child for the prices-you-can’t-grasp trend. Their new urban wellness resort in New York boasts incredible amenities, from a three-story spa and wellness center with a full-blown functional medical practice to a glamorous, underground jazz club. Rooms are listed at $4,200 a night on weekdays and $5,500 on weekends–and they’re sold out. Their private “spa houses” –bathhouses that are like private spas within their spa–will run $8,500 for two people per day when the spa opens to the public. Aman has also teamed up with Remote Lands for an “Adventures in the Americas” two-week tour this winter that whisks you via private jet to Aman resorts in five countries. The price: $112,888 per person.
As more wellness resorts embrace more medical offerings, the prices they can command are skyrocketing. Luxury longevity brand Clinique La Prairie’s 7-night Revitalization Premium Program at their Swiss resort, which includes evaluations by a cardiologist, pulmonologist, and nutritionist; genetic and epigenetic tests; and personalized movement and nutrition plans, starts at $45,000.
You read about sales of new multi-multi-million-dollar wellness condos and homes selling every week. Aman residences in their New York property, which feature private saltwater pools on massive terraces and private hammams and Russian banyas, recently sold for $53 million and $74 million! Investors like Aman’s hyper-luxury future play: the company just raised $900 million of fresh investment (to reach a $3 billion valuation) to expand globally.
Exclusive, Pricey Wellness Social Clubs Are the Hot Trend:
High-end, private wellness and fitness clubs are changing the wellness landscape. They revolve around two pillars: serious socializing and dizzying smorgasbords of wellness and fitness experiences and treatments. Vogue recently reported that people are now willing to pay an even higher price tag for wellness and fitness if it means both personalization and socialization. These wellness/fitness social clubs often have “friends-of-friends” or referral-only models for membership–even if you want to pay, it can be mysterious how you can get in.
At Forma Pilates (in New York and LA) a private class runs $250 and membership is referral-based. Social wellness club Remedy Place, which just expanded from LA to NYC (and with Miami, Austin and London on the table), features mocktail lounges, DJs, ice baths, breathwork classes, saunas, hyperbaric oxygen chambers and more. Monthly memberships cost between $595 to $2,750 a month and their approach to membership is “friends of friends” and word-of-mouth. At LA’s new exclusive social gym and wellness club, Heimat, you can revel in the amazing fitness offerings, bar, sauna, rooftop pool, work spaces, restaurant and spa. Memberships cost $250 a month (without food, drink, treatments, etc.), but all of them are currently snatched up and you can only join the waitlist. They’re eyeing locations from Paris to Berlin.
With a big focus on exclusive membership, we’re seeing urban wellness centers become more like Soho House, where you rub shoulders (but in the sauna) with celebs and other high-net-worth movers-and-shakers. In fact, more exclusive social clubs, like Soho House and The Ned (London, and just opened in NYC) are now building big wellness spaces and offering more wellness programming in their new houses. (The New York Post just railed against the rise of expensive, un-democratic social clubs, such as Casa Cipriani and Zero Bond, that are now mushrooming in NYC.)
The travel, fashion and lifestyle media love to cover the exclusive new social wellness clubs and wellness travel destinations, detailing their stunning spaces and innovative programming. Prices are almost never posted: You have to do your own Googling to uncover the sticker shock (if prices are even made public).
We’re not arguing that there are not welcome, more democratic moves at the lower end of the wellness market: from new platforms such as the UK’s The Joy Club that brings older people together for some social wellness to fitness-for-the-people gym chain, Planet Fitness, seeing such strong recent membership and earnings growth to a wave of yoga and meditation communities launching for people of color. In New York City, you can spend thousands for a “spa bathhouse” day at Aman, or $90 at the new spa bathhouse and water playground, QC NY, on Governor’s Island.
But we could give countless more examples of how even more expensive, exclusive wellness is on the rise. And it raises many questions. Will the wellness market double down further on targeting wealthier demographics at the expense of the masses, who are also more committed to wellness post-pandemic, but seek in-reach offerings? (It’s always easier to create offerings for, and to market to, the high-spending few than the lower-spending many.) Will this growing Wellth Divide further damage the image of wellness at a moment when there is so much hope and energy around it becoming a less elitist and more inclusive market? With more wellness consumers (and younger generations) vocally rejecting such expensive exclusivity, are class politics and wellness on a collision course?
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