While other businesses are battening down the hatches, McDiarmid is launching a brand new venture with a brand new premise.
He has bought the Wood estate (pictured) in South Tawton, Devon for £2m and plans to turn it into a one-stop shop for luxury cosmetic surgical treatments.
“Aesthetic surgery is the only aspect of private surgery which is on the increase,” he says. “It is not provided by the NHS.”
McDiarmid is about to plough £2m into the project, turning the country house into a state-of-the art spa, which will attract wealthy patients from all over the world.
“There is no centre offering a similar experience this side of the Swiss Alps,” he says. “And, tying in recovery packages and branded products sourced from within our regenerated Grade I listed gardens will differentiate the Wood experience from anything else out there.”
This MediSpa will be pricier than your common-or-garden Harley Street specialist. “We expect Wood to cost 20 per cent or so more than a similar procedure would cost at a private hospital,” says McDiarmid. But the plastic surgeon believes people will happy to pay more for “the Wood experience”.
Compared to a private hospital, Wood is “a Rolex versus a Timex”, he explains.
But McDiarmid does not expect it to be easy. When asked about the impact of the recession on the industry, he says: “We have concerns just the same as everybody else at present. I have seen a 10-20 per cent downturn in my current practice over the last quarter.
“This month looks particularly healthy though and February is also filling up fast. My prediction is that the big business-backed clinics (who are not doctor-led and who rent their medics off the peg) will do worse than the smaller, more personal clinics. This has certainly been the trend in North America. Patient loyalty is the vital ingredient that we have in abundance and that the more faceless impersonal brands lack.
The doors to The Wood will open early next year. McDiarmid predicts that turnover in the first year will be a cheerful £3-5m. “I would hope that the recession will be over when we are ready to throw the doors open in 2010,” he says wryly. “But we will survive. That is certain.”
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