In the bedroom of her New York apartment, Ms Alison Mazur relaxed into her chair while an aesthetician coated her nails in taupe polish. It was the first manicure-pedicure she’d had in four months, since coronavirus restrictions forced salons across the country to close their doors.
“I was like, what the heck, I live in New York City – there’s got to be a company that’s doing something to accommodate self-care during this time,” she said.
A Google search led her to MySpa2Go, which is based in the city and provides at-home nail services, waxing, facials, makeup, eyelash extensions, haircuts and massages, for a premium price. A deluxe manicure-pedicure costs US$125 (S$172), notably higher than the usual price at a New York City nail salon.
Before the pandemic, getting a manicure, buying a movie ticket, attending an exercise class or going on a shopping trip were relatively affordable pastimes for the upper-middle class. But the virus has increasingly made these pursuits even more exclusive – available at a premium for those affluent enough to enjoy them in a private setting.
Miss going to the movies? For about US$350, you can rent an entire auditorium at Moviehouse & Eatery, a luxury theatre chain in Texas. Eager to get back to your exercise routine? Gymguyz, a personal training company in New York, offers socially distanced one-on-one workouts in customers’ homes or backyards for up to US$100.
If swimming is your thing, Swimply allows you to rent a private pool in someone’s backyard for up to US$60 an hour.
Demand for MySpa2Go’s services quadrupled after the pandemic hit, and the company has a wait list of 10 to 15 people on any given day, its owner, Ms Lori Traub, said.
“People have been calling and begging for services, telling us that they would pay any amount of money to have services done,” she said. “They were literally saying: ‘Charge me double. Charge me triple. I’ll pay anything to get service.'”
Ms Traub said the company had not raised prices significantly during the pandemic. MySpa2Go requires all staff members to wear protective gear, including masks and gloves, while performing services and to use disposable tools as much as possible.
Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, set on 809ha in the Allegheny Mountains of Pennsylvania, is offering a socially distanced retreat experience.
For as much as US$900 a night, guests get a butler who plans private leisure activities, including watching movies solo at the resort’s theatre or enjoying private use of its tennis courts, museums or shops.
High-end businesses are also selling one of the most sought-after commodities in the pandemic era: childcare.
In California, Beverly Hills agency Westside Nannies has received an overwhelming number of requests for people with experience as summer camp counsellors to watch children, the better to plan one-on-one camplike activities, said Ms Katie Provinziano, the agency’s managing director.
“Parents are really feeling like they want their kids to have some sense of normalcy and a little bit of that traditional summer experience within the confines of the pandemic,” she said.
Ms Victoria O’Flahavan of West Hollywood, California, hired a nanny through the agency to look after her three-year-old son while she tends to her newborn daughter. The nanny, who charges US$28 an hour, orchestrates summertime activities like planting tomatoes in the garden and setting up a lemonade stand.
“I like that he has something to look forward to, because it’s been so long since he had interaction with other kids, which just breaks my heart,” she said.
Parents are also finding ways for their children to continue pursuing athletic ambitions. In Hopkins, Minnesota, 43 Hoops Basketball Academy offers private training for up to US$90 an hour.
Elite Method, in Englewood, New Jersey, provides “concierge-style” one-on-one sports coaching and mentoring to children in their own backyard for US$250 for a 90-minute session.