Massage Envy takes steps to stabilize Sparks |

Massage Envy takes steps to stabilize Sparks

John Seelmeyer

When Joseph Wieczorek opened his first Massage Envy location on South Virginia Street last June, he felt pretty darned smart as the location drew 50 clients a day.

Five months later, his second franchised location this one at Sparks Galleria drew an average of only five clients a day, and Wieczorek has kept the location afloat only through heavy use of direct mail to nearby residents and promotional pricing that exceeds the recommendations of Massage Envy’s parent company.

The difference between the two openings?

The economy, for one, as the Sparks Galleria location’s opening in December came as the regional economy was beginning to slump. And things only got worse for the location in March, as the downturn become more widespread and clients used up the gift certificates they’d received as holiday gifts.

Another challenge, Wieczorek says, came as shop space in the new Sparks Galleria was slow to get leased up. That cut the amount of pedestrian traffic he expected when he agreed to open the 2,800-square-foot location, although traffic has begun to pick up with the opening of a Sports Authority store and increased occupancy of smaller retail spaces nearby.

Pedestrian traffic, Wieczorek says, is critical to Massage Envy as a significant number of its clients about 50 percent, in fact make impulse decisions to schedule a massage the same day.

The first location, for instance, draws traffic from a nearby Courtyard by Marriott hotel as well as the David’s Bridal store next door.

Franchisees of Massage Envy, headquartered in Scottsdale, Ariz., have opened more than 600 locations nationwide. The company positions itself as an affordable massage provider, and its business model is based around sales of monthly memberships.

Faced with anemic business at his Sparks location, Wieczorek stepped up his advertising efforts, stripping the advertising budget from his South Virginia Street location and pumping all available dollars into Sparks and Spanish Springs.

The direct mail campaign, developed by Media Directions, a Reno agency, targeted homes within a five-mile radius of the Sparks franchise and emphasized the health benefits of massage.

While the parent company recommends that franchisees provide one-hour introductory sessions for $39.95, Wieczorek increased the offer to a 90-minute massage to drum up traffic for the Sparks store.

It paid off sort of. While the Sparks location isn’t yet breaking even, it’s now doing business that’s 50 percent of what Wieczorek had projected, up from 30 percent of projections in March.

“It’s just a matter of time,” he says.

The location is getting a boost, too, as Sparks Galleria fills. Bayer Properties, which manages the center, says it’s now about 95 percent leased.

Still, the experience has been sobering enough for Wieczorek that he’s delayed plans for a third location in the Mount Rose area of south Reno. That location, he says, now is at least 18 months in the future.