The best way to predict the future is to examine what’s already happened in the past. In the context of tanning equipment, salon offerings have evolved rapidly in recent history. With new advancements, plentiful amenities, and luxurious visual appeal, many clients have grown used to, and are willing to pay more for, an elevated experience.
Equipment selection hasn’t transformed simply because of consumer preference, but also out of necessity. As the industry has condensed, many tanning businesses are trying to drive more revenue with lower budgets, less space and fewer customers. Accomplishing that requires equipment that will warrant higher prices for sessions and memberships, as well as the ability to push more tanners through the rooms faster in peak times, with shorter exposure times. Even if you have plenty of space, you still want to maximize your revenue per room, and that now requires a different equipment mix than in the past.
When you consider how different things are now from 10 or 20 years ago, if you plan on being in this business for the long haul, it’s important to be looking ahead at what the next 10 years will bring. There’s no reason to expect the industry not to continue to gravitate toward higher-level equipment. So, if you’re not up to date now, you can only expect to fall further behind if you don’t make changes soon.
“With indoor tanning originating in Europe, and primarily Germany, when you go over there, you don’t see four or five levels of tanning. You may see two. They don’t sell 32 lamp units. They don’t even sell the Level 2 beds we sell here. You’re getting only the biggest beds in salons there. In the late ‘90s, big beds were starting to come in and people here were saying, ‘American salons will always focus on more of the 32 lamp units in their salon.’ But that’s changed greatly in 20 years,” says PC Tan VP of Sales Eric Haynes
“Level 1 isn’t the biggest level anymore. As we move forward, salons could go to just having all upper end beds with different lamp mixes in them that meet all of their needs. It may not be tomorrow, but in another 15 years down the road, I’m confident indoor tanning will likely have a wider audience because of the features that are making their way into tanning systems today. Just like looking at things today versus 10 years ago, it’s going to look very different, and I think we could have a wider audience, not fewer salons.”
Spray tanning has also grown to be an indispensable part of the conversation about the equipment mix of the future, for every single tanning salon in North America. Sunless is clearly growing, but investment in spray tanning equipment is still minimal compared to UV in most salons. It makes sense why. Even if your UV units aren’t constantly in use, you need to have a variety of options to appeal to all consumers. On the other hand, there are differences in sunless equipment, but they are usually still seen as very similar, or even interchangeable.
But, it’s now time to adjust that thinking. Demand for higher-level UV equipment with shorter session times can allow many salons to generate more revenue with less UV units. And, at the same time, sunless equipment is continually becoming more advanced and diversified. While you might not think your sunless demand currently warrants additional units, it’s worth considering if being proactive and adding more options will be necessary in the future, and help stimulate growth now.
So, looking to the future, where do you see your tanning market 10 years from now, and where do you want your business to be? Getting there starts now, with positioning yourself to adapt to the future, and you can begin by evaluating the present. First, consider your current equipment repertoire, how tanners are dispersed between levels, how busy each room is, and how much revenue each room is generating.
Them think about where you want to be. Do you realistically think you can add significantly more clients in the future? Do you want to push members to higher levels of tanning? (Hint: You do.) Do you have the space and equipment to accommodate those changes? These considerations will drive your equipment buying decisions that will largely determine where your business is headed.
“Put it all on the board. Last year, what was my demand by membership level? Do I need to step up my Level 2 to Level 3? If I were you, I’d leave a room open or two and watch your membership mix as you start to sell in the Fall, and if you start selling higher memberships, then you say I want to fill that with Level 4 or 5. Err on the high side and be short on Level 1 or 2, because that gives you the chance to upgrade. Nobody gets mad if you upgrade,” says Tanning Supplies Unlimited VP of Sales Bill Pipp.
This month’s Smart Tan Member of the Month, Ocean Rayz Tanning, experienced rejuvenation in recent years when Melene Hatcher, a tanning novice with an accounting background, took over operations. She didn’t know anything about tanning, but she understands numbers and took advantage of her skill set when she was trying to improve the equipment mixes at their four locations.
“I’m a numbers person. At heart, that’s what I’m trained in. Numbers make sense to me,” she says. “When I started looing at memberships and bed mixes, I was trying to figure out what would make people pay. I started looking at wattages and facials and all the perks. I saw one salon has way more of one level than another and tried to even that out in every salon. Then, we bought new beds at that top level.”
The decision she came to after her research, as well as the results, provide anecdotal evidence of the direction the tanning business is headed. Introducing new KBL 6800 units at all Ocean Rayz locations led directly to 27 percent of members converting to the top level, at $59.99. And, with so many tanners at that level, Melene is probably already questioning whether they need more high-end units to satisfy demand.