The Spa Industry Association (SIA)
“Connecting the Wellness Industry”
Business View Magazine interviews Allan Share, President of The Spa Industry Association, for our focus on the U.S. Health & Wellness Sector
The Spa Industry Association (SIA) is unique in many aspects, with one of the most important being its mission to “Connect the Community” – which is why membership in the organization has no charge for those actively practicing the pursuit of ‘Wellness’. Nationally and Internationally, all are welcome to join.
Not surprisingly, the association is nearing 90,000 members and is growing by leaps and bounds.
To catch up on all the news and views, Business View spoke with Allan Share, President of the Spa Industry Association, about the SIA’s history, current initiatives, and industry insights for the future. As he reports, there is a lot to look forward to!
BVM: Allan, can you give some background on the SIA?
Share: “The SIA started in 1989 as the Day Spa Association and years later added the International Medical Spa Association. I took over in 2010, and we moved them from Union City, New Jersey to Minneapolis where I was living at the time.
“If you think back to 2010, we were in the depths of a depression; people weren’t spending a dime to join any association. So we had one of those epiphany moments and thought, let’s make membership free and let’s put together better sponsorship programs for the vendors. So we did something completely different from other associations and, to our way of thinking, the reason it worked was that my team of six was made up of manufacturers, and distributors, and consultants in the industry. We realized that we were always the ones paying for marketing. The fact is: vendors pay. That’s just the nature of our industry.
“So we put together a program that gave vendors everything we would have wanted – emails, blogging, social media, banner ads, and so on. And it seemed to work right from day one. In our industry, ‘free’ still has value, it’s very important in the spa channel. So when we advertised that membership in the SIA was now free to join, people were thanking us and telling us how much they needed the benefits and the connections to vendors. In 2010, when my team took over the association there were about 1100 signed up members – today we are approaching 90,000, globally.”
BVM: What parts of the industry do your members represent?
Share: “Anyone who works within the spa industry can join SIA free of charge. Our members are massage therapists, estheticians, nurses, chiropractors, day spa, spa salons, resort destinations, wellness practitioners, medical doctors – if they’re in the ‘wellness world’, we will allow them to come in as a member. That includes businesses and individuals.
“Then, we have the whole vendor side to our program. Anyone who is a manufacturer, or a distributor, or a consultant, or a service company, or in the gift industry – because gift is big in spa. A lot of our spa people go to Las Vegas Market, America’s Mart, Dallas Mart, or NYNOW because gift gives them front of the house retail that they’re looking for. It is incredibly important in the spa channel. In fact, I would say it kept a lot of facilities in business over the last 18 or more months.”
BVM: When COVID-19 came on the scene, how did the SIA help your members?
Share: “If we go back to March 2020, I had just flown to New York for the IECSC (International Esthetics, Cosmetics & Spa Conferences) trade show and set up the booth with my team, when someone said, “In 30 minutes, IECSC is going to announce the show is cancelled because the City of New York uses the Javits Center as a triage. So we have to get out.” It was a surreal moment and one I hope we never repeat.
“So, after that, our association became sort of a help center for people in the industry. They were reaching out to us for information about rules and regulations and what was going to happen, who they should talk to, etc. We started collating and sharing resources and that became the next three months – our staff is spread across the country and everybody worked very hard from home. Many of our vendors who have been with us for years said, “Allan, we don’t know what to do about sponsorship.” And I can tell you, we put their money on hold. We stopped billing them monthly because it seemed like the right thing to do.
“When the government came out with the PPP and EILP plans for financial support, we quickly got together with some others in the industry and put on a webinar, so people could sign up and get information from experts in the field. Here we are, a year and a half later and people are still telling me that the webinar saved their business. We had close to 1000 attend that webinar and I’m so thankful that we put it on early and that is was really helpful for a lot of businesses, especially the smaller independent operators around the country.”
BVM: What is the association’s primary mandate?
Share: “Our tagline for the association is ‘Connecting the Community Across the Globe’ and one of the charges for me is to make sure that people are always connecting because I think it makes our world a very small place. Our mission at SIA is, quite simply, to bring people together. That’s not to say we don’t do a lot of other things, but that is our core goal.
“People in our industry call me “the Mayor” 😊 because over 34 years I’ve been a manufacturer, a distributor, a consultant, I’ve run the association, I’ve bought and sold several businesses within the spa industry and so I’m probably one of the most connected people in our industry. And I believe we’ve helped and made a lot of friends over the years.”
BVM: Can you update us on recent changes to the SIA?
Share: “When we took over the association, my team agreed we were not going to do a trade show because there are so many, really good ones already. We didn’t see that as a good use of time and energy. Instead, we went out and made partners with trade shows in the U.S. and across the globe, and we work to help each other. If they want us to send out some missives for them, we’re happy to do it, and vice versa.
“We’ve been connected closely with IECSC (part of Questex in New York) for many years. They came to me not long ago and said they would like to acquire the SIA and roll it into what they’re doing with their trade shows. It seemed like a good idea, so they recently acquired the association in June of 2021. I’m still the SIA President and running it as before, but it’s just owned by a significantly larger company in New York.
“We have at least six new programs that we hope to roll out in 2022. Yes, we will always have a free model because it’s important to help and connect. But there are also a number of benefit levels we will add that will come as a paid model, very similar to the way other organizations are doing it around the country.”
BVM: What is the biggest challenge for the spa industry, right now?
Share: “On the plus side, I believe the one shining light for many people during the pandemic is they became very aware of their own wellness. Making their immunity strong; using the right skin care; taking the right supplements; eating the right food; exercising… I think it was a wakeup call.
“The pain point is that our industry is probably short 100,000 people. We cannot hire enough massage therapists and estheticians and front desk staff to accommodate how unbelievably busy the spas are. This means that the spa channel facilities can’t be open as many hours as they would like, and they can’t wear down their existing staff. So we are suffering through the inability to hire in our industry.”
BVM: What do you see for the future of the industry and the SIA?
Share: “I have faith in our world. There are enough people, worldwide, who look forward, not backwards, that we will overcome this pandemic. It’s going to take time, but looking ahead I see a very bright spot in our future. I believe a lot of people are new to massage and esthetics and will continue to go to their facility, and participate in wellness. There are no bounds to the growth of the SIA in our industry. We are, and always have been, the leading association to the entire spa community and we will continue to connect across the globe. It’s our challenge, it’s our charge, and we will keep doing it.”
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AT A GLANCE
The Spa Industry Association (SIA)
What: A global, member-based organization for the Wellness Industry
Where: Based in New York City and Phoenix AZ