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Why beauty is the new boozy lunch

The summer soiree season might be in full swing but a curious thing is happening in the corporate world. The boozy end-of-year bash is being replaced by massages, manicures and pedicures. In short, pampering is the new partying, and health and wellness is the new way to hobnob.

Case in point: a leading real estate firm in Sydney that eschewed its usual Christmas liquid lunch in favour of indulgence of a different kind at a local beauty salon and spa. “We've had a lot of great life coaches do training seminars about the importance of work-life balance so we thought a night of pampering would be perfect. It was a fun and healthy evening with sushi and everyone, including the guys, had facials, massages and manicures. The staff loved it and felt great after,” says Susannah Anderson, managing director of Di Jones Real Estate.

Also getting in on the pampering act by opting to let off some steam at the nail bar (rather than in a drunken bar) were the money men and women from Perpetual Finance who recently held a team-building event at Polished Beauty Bar in Woollahra. “They hired out our entire space and staff could choose from manicures, pedicures, brow shaping, blow dry or massage,” says Jo Patterson, director of Polished Beauty Bar, who believes enjoying a few beauty treatments is becoming the preferred alternative to the typical Christmas party or alcohol-fuelled work lunch.

“The thing I hear over and over from clients is that they are tired of those kind of events. Also many companies have now implemented rules that stipulate staff can no longer drink at lunch,” says Patterson, who also regularly witnesses power meetings being held over manicures and pedicures.

“A lot of corporates, especially in the advertising and media industry, bring in clients and take over our nail bar and pedicure station to conduct meetings,” says Patterson.

Josh Oakes, Director of MPT Corporate Events, agrees the trend for health and wellness is taking off. “We've definitely seen an increase in inquiries for these sort of experiences recently. Just last week we organised a sunrise balloon ride followed by a manicure and pedicure. Usually that would have ended in a champagne breakfast,” says Oakes.


Such is the new-found lust for rejuvenation over annihilation, stressed-out execs needn't even set foot out of the office to get their fill. The emergence of mobile beauty therapists and pamper parties, unleashing an army of experts providing treatments at workplaces or offices, has seen to that.

KPMG demographer Bernard Salt believes our “me-focused” generation is in part fuelling the need to be rewarded. “There's an element of narcissism and feeling special that exists these days. We believe we're all overworked and deserving of appreciation and pampering but if you look back five or even 10 years we are not actually working any longer hours,” says Salt.

The rewards are certainly evident in the growing number of executives booking in for five-star spa retreat breaks.

“We are seeing more and more busy execs and corporate types that have been sent here by their company. In the past they would have been sent to Bali or Thailand to sip cocktails, shop and live it up,” says Tracey Willis, marketing manager for Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat in Queensland.

Today's brides are also adding to the notion that beauty is the new booze. Drunken debauchery has given way to a desire for some sobering luxury and now hen's parties can be found sipping herbal tea, rather than martinis, in day spas.

Not that you need to be tying the knot to catch up with your BFFs in this way. A day of relaxation and rejuvenation at a spa is even replacing the restaurant as the new way to catch up or celebrate.

“Many of our clients come in with friends to spend a morning or afternoon having beauty treatments and hanging out, especially at this time of year as their annual get-together. Our client base, which includes many corporates, is so much more diverse these days and a visit is no longer a quick necessity, it's something that's planned out and all about pampering,” says Sebastian Rees, who has owned Sydney's Sebastian Salon for well over a decade.

And why not? Who wouldn't want to wake up after this year's Christmas party with glowing skin and perfect nails rather than a parched throat, pounding headache and the horrifying realisation that you kissed the mail boy?