Time as currency: how wellness became the new luxury

3 Apr 2018

Ownership is no longer the goal. Splurging on cars and gadgets does not equate to success in the mind of the younger generations. Baby boomers may have their comforts, but Millennials and Gen Zers believe the key to leading fulfilling lives is through meaningful, holistic experiences. This has been described as the “transformation economy,” where self-improvement has become the ultimate aspirational product.


This seismic shift has spread across all industries, but perhaps the most obvious is the boom in wellness travel. Flights have become cheaper and more frequent, whilst the world seems smaller and thus offers a hotpot of tempting ‘tick list’ opportunities. However, for young travellers, the days of ‘fly and flop’ package holidays are a thing of the past - these consumers want to return from a trip having learnt a new skill or become fitter and leaner, bursting with unforgettable stories to tell. Social media has played a huge part in this; travellers are looking for something to brag about beyond hot dog legs. You’ll land far more likes for an exotic shot of a far flung location than the delivery of a new television. Facebook has previously reported that their second most shared activity is the ‘travelling to’ event. Modern day travellers want to find destinations beyond the mainstream - a city’s quiet corners, the most ‘authentic’ restaurants, obscure new hobbies from worldly meditation techniques to local cooking tricks - and they want their followers to know about it.

©One 10 Spin

Wellness has also seeped into home life too; for health conscious Londoners, club nights are now matched by themed spin classes. This new trend has played a part in the crisis hitting the city’s nightlife, as many establishments are now struggling to attract punters through the door. As for fashion, wearing leggings to lunch has become the norm as athleisure blurs the line between workout and everyday attire. There are countless new activewear brands focussing on being versatile to enable wearers to keep up with busy schedules, taking them from brunch to burpees seamlessly. The same approach applies to working life; an office that is walkable or cyclable from home is a gleaming ‘pro’ factor for job hunters when picking their next career move. Being granted time and space during the commute to breathe, gather thoughts and revel in the fresh air has become an important factor for many employees alongside salaries. The fitness industry is also capitalising on this revolution; thanks to the influx of luxury studios, a workout is now considered a treat or an opportunity to socialise. Many fitness studios in London offer buddy passes and the app Class Pass gives referral credits to draw in new users via established fans.

Selfridges Body Studio ©Nulty Lighting

When it comes to retail, brands are striving to add more depth to a shopping experience as good customer service no longer cuts it. Clients now demand a shareable, experiential aspect to a purchase, whether that’s a free manicure or a takeaway smoothie. As the Observer explains: “It’s not cool to show off your logo or handbag. Now, the way you brag is flaunting your healthy lifestyle, so it’s a selfie at SoulCycle, a 10 dollar green juice or geotagging a hike.” Even the biggest names in the business are changing their ways; Barneys has introduced a new ‘Conscious Beauty’ category filled with ‘clean’ skincare products and in London, Selfridges has opened a ‘Body Studio’ full of loungewear or pajamas, representing a new kind of ‘self-care’ indulgence. Last year, the overall global market for health and wellness reached $701 billion in value, so there’s serious money to be made.

For those living in expensive cities, such as New York and London, the dream of buying a house can be so unattainable that investing in themselves - their bodies and their health - can seem more worthwhile. Is this because there’s little promise of good pensions and financial security in the future, so (maybe subconsciously) millennials are prepping for a far longer working life?

The Benjamin NYC offers a sleep menu to its guests ©The Benjamin

Beyond chia seeds and gong workshops, it seems the future of wellness will be focussed on the essentials, such as the promise of a good sleep. Many hotels now welcome guests with packages to ensure the best slumber possible. These could include eye masks, lavender scented accessories, meditation guides or simply a good book. So brands take note, it’s more important to bolster a sustainable, healthy way of living than to merely jump on trends. Those who are successful will play a role in helping their consumer on their journey to find health and, ultimately, happiness.