The latest wrinkle in the US$3.7t-per-year global wellness industrial complex
By NIKKI EKSTEIN
You know the type: The corner suite executive who manages to reply to every email within 15 minutes — whether it’s from their office, a Soul-Cycle studio, or through the hole of a massage table.
This sort of wellness-obsessed workaholic is a relatively recent phenomenon — along with Juice Press, Barry’s Bootcamp and Mndfl meditation studios, it’s a product of the past decade. But, the trend is reaching fever pitch. According to the 2018 annual report from the Global Wellness Summit, consumers now see holistic habits as a way to “open up a wealth of ‘super’ powers” that include “thinking ‘better, faster, and smarter’.” It’s estimated to be a US$3.7 trillion (RM15.17 trillion) industry (and not without its detractors).
No surprise, then, that the latest twist on the private members club is based around the concept of “360-degree wellness”. When it opens in early 2019, The Well, a 13,000-sq-ft (1,207.74 sq m), two-floor space in Manhattan’s Union Square area, will aim to be a place for the overworked to unwind, recharge and reinvest in themselves.
“Yoga studios, meditation studios, juice bars, acupuncturists — all of the different components of a healthy lifestyle have become really developed markets and strong verticals on their own,” says Well co-founder Kane Sarhan, the former head of brand for Starwood Capital Group’s 1 Hotels. “People are already consuming all these services, we’re just giving them a place to do everything under one beautiful roof,” he adds.
Its brain trust includes Deepak Chopra, hospitality maven Barry Sternlicht, and Keith Pyne, a sports medicine doctor whose clients include Kobe Bryant and Alex Rodriguez. Memberships will cost around US$375 per month.
Beth McGroarty, director of research at the Global Wellness Summit, sees potential. “Social wellness clubs are right in the heartbeat of one of our top global trends,” she says. “Because of digital isolation and massive rates of loneliness, these club models are once again finding their place in the world — but now they’re being organised around wellness rather than gin and tonics.”
Cutting Through the Noise
Versions of the concept already exist in major cities around the world.
Grace Belgravia, in London, was an early pioneer in combining medical and wellness practices under a single membership model. Mortimer House, also in London, has eight floors, each addressing one of Maslow’s eight hierarchical needs, from “love” to “belonging”. In Sydney, there’s Club W, a teahouse and wellness education centre for baby boomer women. And in the Well’s backyard, you’ll find Rise by We (a health club and “superspa” concept from WeWork), HealHaus (a Brooklyn-based temple to yoga and Eastern medicine), and Assemblage (which pairs co-working spaces with mindfulness exercises and ayurvedic food).
The Well brings with it boldface backers, a combination of Western and Eastern medicine approaches, and a staff of 30 licensed practitioners, which will run the gamut from massage therapists to reflexologists and experts in sports medicine.
Rather than having a dedicated co-working space, it’ll let members check their digital devices at the door. And with a scientific advisory board led by integrative medicine expert Dr Frank Lipman, it’ll speak to clients who are data-driven, as well as those who are more spiritual.
“There’s so much noise in wellness,” says co-founder Rebecca Parekh, who developed the Well while working as the head of cross product sales at Deutsche Bank AG and later as the COO for Deepak Chopra. (A third co-founder, Sarrah Hallock, is a former marketing executive at Vitaminwater, Bai and Wtrmln Wtr.)
“We want to meet people where they are, whether they’re looking to resolve a sleep disorder, de-stress, lose a few pounds — or just want to work hard and play hard. We want to be a trusted, gold-star source for all of it,” Parekh says.
How It Works
The Well is currently extending invitations to apply for 200 founding membership slots, half of which are already taken. By the time it’s at full capacity, there will be space for 2,000 members.
Included in the fee, members get monthly, one-on-one meetings with a dedicated health concierge; unlimited yoga and meditation classes; exclusive access to fitness classes that will range from high-intensity training to qigong; and full use of the communal spaces, which will include a dry sauna, steam room, laconium (for milder heat therapies), coed relaxation areas and a private training studio. (Just don’t expect it to replace your gym — the workout classes won’t be as comprehensive, and the training studio will be small.) A full-service restaurant and cafe with an ayurvedic twist will be open to the pub- lic on the club’s street level.
The club will also offer classroom education — on everything from energy healing to mind-fulness — at no cost for members.
McGroarty expects this New Age aspect to be a selling point. “Ten years ago, if you talked to people about sound baths and energy healing, it was considered totally hippie,” she says. “Now it’s absolutely front and centre. People are so overwhelmed by digital connection and desperate to shake up their brains.”
Members can also purchase add-on services, ranging from massages in the 10-room spa to acupuncture, reiki and reflexology. “Every practitioner will have shared access to your medical records (via an electronic medical records system), so you won’t have to answer all the same questions over and over again,” Sarhan says.
A Global Pipeline
The team expects to scale the Well globally beginning with a second location in New York and subsequent openings in San Francisco, Los Angeles, London, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Mumbai and Singapore. (According to Parekh, they’re all places where people have very little time and an increasing desire to find work-life balance.) Long- term plans also include a digital media division.
Global Wellness Summit’s McGroarty cautions that there will be big competition.
Six Senses, the five-star wellness hotel brand, is developing its own membership club, debuting in New York in 2020. Wellness real estate is also growing at lightning-fast speeds — it’s already estimated to be a US$130 billion global market. And big-name hospitals such as the Mayo Clinic are increasingly playing in the preventative health space.
All that office space requires a large footprint, which doesn’t come cheap.
“We’re raising US$10 million for the project — we already have US$4 million and are out raising the remaining six in our Series A,” Parekh says. “That takes its own skill set, and it’s not something most doctors want to do.” — Bloomberg