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NEW YORK — New ventures and cautious optimism punctuated two nascent Northeast trade shows — the Medical Spa Expo & Conference (Medi-Spa) and the Spa & Resort Expo & Conference — which were held jointly on Manhattan’s Pier 94 last weekend.

This story first appeared in the May 2, 2003 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The combined event, a new venture in and of itself, marked the debut of Medi-Spa, which ran Saturday and Sunday, and the second annual Spa & Resort Expo, which ran Sunday and Monday. While many Medi-Spa exhibitors showed at last year’s Spa & Resort Expo, organizers felt that a proliferation in recent years of medical spas warranted a separate show for that sector of the industry.

“Spa owners are looking for a new hook,” said Fernanda Ferreira, marketing director for Nikali Inc., a spa vendor that was exhibiting its Silk Soufflée brand and talking up fall launches like body washes and moisturizers. “They are looking for something new to bring people in.”

Allie Rosvold, who manages Manhattan’s Stone Spa, said, “I get the sense that people — independent aestheticians and spa therapists — are about to open their own spas and are trying to get ideas.”

Indeed, “because I’m thinking about opening again,” said Mechell Mende, a former spa owner who is eyeing locations in suburban New Jersey, “I’m looking for massage and new-age products.”

According to a report commissioned by the International Spa Association and conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers, the U.S. spa industry generated $10.7 billion in 2001, the most recent year figures were available, an increase of 114 percent from 1999.

There were an estimated 9,600 spas in the U.S. as of last year, a number that has grown by an average of 20 percent each year since 1995, according to the ISPA report. The resort and hotel spa sector, which grew 143 percent between 1999 and 2001, has spearheaded this growth. Day spas account for three quarters of the total number of U.S. spas, according to ISPA, and medical spas — after resort/hotel spas, club spas and mineral springs spas — comprise the top five spa sub-categories.

Medical spas, which are generally characterized as either traditional spas that have begun offering licensed physician services — or doctors’ offices that have hired licensed aestheticians and/or spa therapists to render spa services — number about 450 in the U.S., according to estimates from the International Medical Spa Association, which was formed last fall.

The expansion of the Spa & Resort Expo and the advent of Medi-Spa brought many first-time exhibitors, such as N.V. Perricone M.D. Cosmeceuticals, Montreal-based treatment marketer B. Kamins Chemist and spa brand Carol’s Daughter. In all, 243 exhibitors participated in this year’s event, with 175 participating in the Spa & Resort Expo, up 46 percent from the show’s inaugural year. An estimated 4,000 industry professionals attended the combined event, up 74 percent from the Spa & Resort Expo last year.

Carol’s Daughter is working on a strategy to grow wholesale distribution from its current base of 20 U.S. doors to roughly 65 by yearend — and to 130 by next year. “[Spa owners] are looking for things they can use that also accent an environment because they look good,” said founder Lisa Price, who was highlighting the colorful brand’s Mango Soufflé moisturizer and an exfoliator called Mango Crush.

Sprinkled between Eastern spa treatment providers like Jamu Asia Spa Ritual, and European bath and body care brands like I Coloniali, Tact and L’Erbolario, were a number of mineral-based color cosmetics. Suppliers such as Brushes by Karen and Barbara’s Private Collection cited demand from spa owners, plastic surgeons and dermatologists for their own mineral cosmetics lines.

Mineral makeup is “good for the skin, especially during post-procedure [downtime],” said Brushes by Karen president Karen Bock. Jamie Puntin, a sales consultant for exhibitor Jane Iredale Mineral Cosmetics Ltd., asked, “Why wear [typical] makeup when mineral-based makeup can help the skin and give instant protection?”

Next year, the Spa & Resort Expo and Medi-Spa are scheduled to run concurrently on April 18 and 19 at Pier 94.