Style | Diary of a Somebody

Susan Harmsworth

Espa’s chief executive on the joys and challenges of launching a mega-spa

Susan Harmsworth

July 20 2011
Susan Harmsworth

Day: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

7am. I left home armed with my cappuccino, and some raspberries and blueberries to nibble on during my drive into London from Guildford. My days are usually fairly long so I do try to wire into some healthy fruit first thing in the morning. The trip to London was for a meeting with Liberty to discuss the design of Espa’s new exclusive beauty room, which will be launching towards the end of the year. Around 11am I took a cab over to The Corinthia Hotel in Whitehall where I met with Mason Rose for a marketing and PR meeting to plan the pre-opening for a luxury site that opens in the Maldives later this year. These meetings get down to the nitty gritty as everything needs to look and feel luxe – and of course be seamless, not just for the opening but from an operations level ongoing. We need to showcase our expertise in spa and skincare in the best possible way, to a very sophisticated audience – and so I need to be really focused!

Had lunch with Nicky Kinnaird of SpaceNK. I hadn’t seen her for about 10 years, so our catch-up was long overdue. We ate at Massimo, the new David Collins-designed restaurant at the hotel, and it was a real pleasure just to be in the same place, at the same time to chat in a less formal environment instead of doing business. Actually, we’ve followed each other’s careers and kept in touch through mutual acquaintances: I have enormous respect for her and what she’s achieved so the catch-up was us bringing each other up to speed. Especially interesting for me, as Nicky spends a lot of time in the States which is informative for us as Espa also has a presence there.

In the mid-afternoon I did a meeting with Martine Fehr, spa director of EspaLife at The Corinthia, our brand new luxury flagship spa, while I had a blow-dry at the Daniel Galvin salon: a super-busy place to be, it turned out, as the hotel was hosting a big party that night. As EspaLife has only just opened, we were covering off topics such as what the feedback from editors has been following their treatments (fortunately things are looking really good on that side), as well as a reader event we are planning with Psychologies magazine in October, along with general recruitment issues.

I drove home to Guildford around six. The reason I don’t live in London is because our offices are in Farnham, as are my grandchildren’s schools, and our factory is in Somerset; so Guildford is really convenient. And I can be in London in just 45 minutes (outside of the rush hour, that is). As soon as I got home, I grabbed a salad and then my son Charlie, who also works for the business, came round, having just got back from France (he and his wife are building a house over there). While he was away, all the new retail images and concepts had come through so we needed to talk them through ahead of my board meeting tomorrow, and agree on which way we wanted to proceed.

Quite late – around nine – our new marketing consultant came round to present her observations and strategy going forward. It’s always interesting to get a fresh perspective on our business, and to understand the strategic thinking that will carry the Espa brand forward and take us to the next level of our expansion plans. She was with me until 11pm; so a long day!

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