LONDON — Nickel is testing its mettle in Covent Garden.

The French men’s grooming brand is set to open a spa and boutique here in April, its first such space in the U.K. Nickel already boasts spas in Paris, New York and San Francisco.

The location for the spa was chosen for its broad appeal. “London is such a cosmopolitan city,” said Howard Shaughnessy, managing director of Fragrance Factory, the U.K. distributor of Nickel, which is majority owned by Inter Parfums. “People who come to Covent Garden lend themselves to a spa environment,” he added.

“I’ve been looking for a location for the past eight years,” said Paris-based Nickel founder Philippe Dumont. “[Covent Garden] is a cool location, it’s where I’ve always wanted [Nickel] to be.” Dumont added he is also working on a Moscow opening.

Nickel executives are keen to attract repeat users to the London spa and insist the 1,460-square-foot space was developed to encourage recurring visits rather than as a place to go for an occasional treat.

“The point of difference when compared to other men’s spas is that there’s a real focus on maintenance rather than pampering,” said Shaughnessy. “[We want men] to use the spa like they would go to get their hair cut. It’s that essential, it becomes a part of their routine.”

The space will also be a one-stop shop where men can find the products they use as part of their daily grooming rituals at home. A multibrand store will be located on the ground floor, featuring a selection of men’s treatment lines and Nickel’s own branded goods displayed on two central tables. Manicure and pedicure stations will also be located on the floor. The spa’s five treatment rooms are in the basement, where clients can chose from a menu that includes facials, waxing, massage, Botox and zone-specific treatments, such as a Love Handle Wrap. Treatment prices will range from 19 pounds, or $33.25 at current exchange, for a shoulder wax, to 85 pounds, or $148.70, for a hot stone massage.

To reinforce the manly nature of the spa, its waiting area — a space often dedicated to sipping herbal teas and perusing well-being-related literature in traditional spas — is equipped with punching bags. The idea here is that clients can relieve tension before having a treatment.

This story first appeared in the March 29, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“It’s a very masculine ambience,” Shaughnessy said of the space, which will feature a blue decor with metallic accents.

Shaughnessy declined to discuss sales estimates for the new spa. However, industry sources estimate it will generate 1 million pounds to 1.5 million pounds, or $1.7 million to $2.6 million, in its first year.

In the U.S., the brand has refocused its distribution. Dumont drastically reduced distribution last fall from about 100 doors to only its stand-alone doors and e-tailing Web site because he was unhappy with how Nickel was sold alongside mass brands in some stores. “We are a niche and trendy brand and cannot be sold in cheap distribution,” he said. “It’s not just a question of price, it’s a question of environment.”

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