The "comfort" industry is soaring as premillennium consumer demand turns the spotlight on health, happiness and above all, less stress. Entrepreneurs promoting relaxation and a chance to escape the daily grind are benefiting.
"The baby boom generation is in the high-stress years, juggling careers and mortgages and raising kids who are going off to college," says Jon Berry, editorial director of market research firm Roper Starch Worldwide. "Particularly in that group, there's a real need for de-stressors."
For those who can't afford a lengthy spa stay or a Tahitian vacation, "affordable approximations"--things associated with getting away--are sporting high appeal, from day spas and bath and shower products to ergonomic furniture and state-of-the-art home entertainment centers.
Frenzied Los Angeles-area residents trade pent-up stress for peace of mind with a visit to Anger Behind Closed Doors. For less than $10 per session, clients spend 3 or 4 minutes in padded, soundproof "venting" rooms. No appointment is needed, says owner David Morgan, 52. Using a foam baton, patrons release their frustrations onto a life-sized dummy, then retire to a relaxation room to cool down to the strains of classical music. Morgan, who launched the company in June, passes the baton to roughly 50 customers a week.
Massage therapist Mark Juarez offers a kinder, gentler de-stressor with his Happy Massager, a small wooden massage tool. Since founding San Leandro, California-based Tender Loving Things Inc. in 1992 to market the invention, Juarez, 41, hasn't had to look far to find inspiration for new products, such as Scrubby Buddies and Happy Eye Pillows. "I realized we create products to reduce stress, yet a lot of people working for me were experiencing stress due to the fast growth of the company," explains Juarez. Expected to bring in more than $10 million in sales this year, the Happy Massager kneads tense muscles in the United States and 17 countries worldwide.