Trends Then and Now: Insight from a 35 Year Industry Leader

By Raleigh Cody, Universal Companies

Trends are never easy to identify. Choosing the right one to follow is kind of like picking the perfect fruit at the grocery store – it may look ripe, but in reality, it’s only going to last a day or two. The spa world is abundant with trends—from ingestible collagen and charcoal masks to metallic nails and body wraps. Choosing the right ones to follow can be confusing at best and always a risk. What works for a hotel or resort may not work for your spa. What works for your spa may not work for a hair or nail salon. 

That’s why I reached out to Marti Morenings, the founder of Universal Companies. This April marks 35 years that she has navigated changes in beauty and wellness with a constant focus in mind: identifying trends and sharing them with others to provide unique business solutions. Read on to better understand the importance of trends and how they can impact your business.

Interview with a Trend Setter

Universal Companies was born out of a trend in the early 1980s—aerobics! With this year being our 35th anniversary, what can you tell us about the role of trends in the company’s early history?
Yes, nothing could’ve been trendier in the early ‘80s than Jane Fonda and aerobics. Our first location became an instant success because it met a need – we simply offered comfortable surroundings and flexible class schedules for the local aerobic crowd. 

From there, we began selling fashion items (aerobics shoes, leg warmers, leotards/tights – talk about trendy!), and then as our customers began requesting services such as facials and hair removal, we looked for the most efficacious products and services to fulfill those needs. Soon we expanded our offerings to include body treatments and had 3 additional locations. 

We became the “spa experts” in our region so other spa businesses began asking for our advice on training and where to buy products. To fill that need, we began sourcing and selling products to other spas in our region and then eventually nationwide.

We noticed other trends emerging, like 'one stop shopping', so we increased our product offering to include everything required to run a spa business. And of course when catalogs became trendy, we realized it would make life much easier for our customers to find everything they needed, so our first catalog was born.   

How have you kept Universal Companies on trend throughout the years?
By staying in tune with our customers and finding out what their customers are asking for. With over 35,000 customers and hundreds of online orders and calls daily, Universal Companies is in many ways the hub of the spa industry. Our team of sales and customer service representatives (many of whom are licensed estheticians/massage therapists) are passionate about listening and disseminating information that can be shared with other spas.

By understanding what our spas need so that they can deliver what their clients need, we’ve been able to develop effective products, services, and educational techniques, that in turn support the mission of our company: To deliver innovative solutions to maximize our customers' success.    

What trends have stayed with you, left an impact on your life?
Workplace wellness. We were one of the first companies to recognize the importance of keeping our employees well, and this has left a positive impact in my own personal wellness journey.   

It’s been a decade since the green initiative was established at Universal Companies. Where do you see us taking this program over the next five-to-ten years?
There is still much work to be done, as spas should be at the forefront of not only the green initiative, but also the wellness movement. I see Universal Companies continuing to provide educational opportunities that will help spa businesses find niches that allow them to address these trends, which will in turn positively effect their bottom lines.  

With the popularity of social media and fast pace of our business-driven world, trends are born, only to fizzle out the moment they reach the masses. What would you tell spa professionals about staying on trend?
I would suggest that spa professionals not confuse fads with trends. Fads are novelties that are generally short lived, so spas can waste valuable resources by promoting fads because, as you say, they fizzle out quickly before a return can be realized. A trend on the other hand is generally driven by a need and helps to solve a problem, so it gets stronger over time. Staying in touch with your clients is key to identifying trends vs. fads.

You can’t spell fade without the word fad, so keep that in mind when you decide what trends will work for you and your spa business. Now that you know the difference, take a minute to reflect; how have trends shaped your business, and how do you see them influencing your future? Share your stories with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest by using the hashtag, #UCTrending.

Universal Companies is proud to have a team of experienced spa advisors on staff and welcomes you to consult with our professionals about spa products and supplies, including ingredients, equipment, and retail. Dedicated to the success of spa professionals everywhere, we’re grateful to be recognized with the American Spa Magazine Professional’s Choice Award, Favorite Distributor of the Year, for 12 consecutive years. (Thank you!)

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