Thirty years ago …
Bernie Sanders was mayor of Burlington, VT.
Ronald and Nancy Reagan occupied the White House.
Pee Wee Herman. Howard Stern. Lt. Colonel Oliver North. Iran-Contra.
A stock market crash.
On TV: “The Cosby Show,” “Cheers” and “Family Ties”
And in 1987, the Ergoline brand was launched.
But let’s go back to 1927. Josef Kratz founded a small, family-run cabinet and wheelwrighting business and called it Josef Kratz GmbH. From those humble beginnings, later developing as a sauna manufacturer, the venture grew and grew to its current status as the global leader of the professional indoor tanning market.
The JK-Group employs about 1,000 people, boasts international sales in more than 40 countries worldwide and features the Ergoline brand, globally sought for its well-known quality and innovations. Seeking to establish its North American presence, they acquired SUN Industries of Jonesboro, AR in 1999 (offering Sundash sunbeds) to duplicate the two-brand strategy that was a proven a success in Europe with the Ergoline and Soltron lines. With an established distributor network and extensive product offerings, Sun Ergoline took off. Now known as JK North America, they continue their extensive reach throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Having spent a period of time selling lamps to JK America and later working for them directly, I was happy to catch up with my former boss and CEO, Hans-Juergen Kreitz and the Director of Marketing & Business Development, Brynn Scarborough, to discuss JK’s 30-year success with the Ergoline name.
IST: First, congratulations on 30 years!
Hans-Juergen: Thanks, Joe. It’s been quite a celebration for us.
IST: Hans-Juergen, I know that you’re a big rock and roll fan. Some really select groups have made it at least 30 years – Aerosmith, The Rolling Stones, U2 and Cheap Trick to name a few. Are there any similarities between their success and that of the Ergoline brand?’
HJK: You have to constantly re-invent yourself, but stay true to your heritage. That’s one similarity which would apply to both creative and technological environments.
IST: Over the last three decades, negative media fostered by anti-tanning research numbers has certainly impacted the tanning industry on a global level, and governments have succeeded at enacting restrictive laws on indoor tanning. JK has had a strong presence with both the European and U.S. tanning associations. What role do you think they will play in the next decade?
HJK: Every industry needs strong associations that represent the interests of all parties involved. They have a key role in the proliferation of science and dialogue now and in the future. JK has and will continue to support all reasonable approaches to this in the U.S. and globally.
IST: JK through the Ergoline brand has been a leader in bringing forth new technologies to the industry. What JK development has had the biggest impact?
Brynn: We focus on technological development that creates a better tanning environment from a holistic perspective. Undoubtedly, the creation of the skin sensor on the SunAngel units is a technology that we are committed to and will continue to innovate.
Additionally, we know that the benefits of sunlight are more apparent when tanning becomes less about immediate results and more about efficient technology.
IST: Let’s look to the future. When it comes to tanning sessions, speed seems to be “king.” Without revealing any company secrets, do you think that we’ll see UV systems offering even faster tanning times than we have now?
Brynn: Our goal is to create an environment that is ideal for the physiological development of a tan, not just to create shorter sessions, which we know are not conducive to optimal results. Finding the ultimate balance between the needs of the human skin for tanning and the requirements of select business models is the space in which our R&D department excels.
IST: For many salons, a key to survival has been diversification, offering products and services ancillary to indoor tanning. Without revealing any company secrets (of course), does JK have plans to offer the market more than sunbeds?
Brynn: Joe, unfortunately, I cannot comment on future projects; but our commitment to development is unquestionable, so as always, stay tuned!
IST: Brynn, as you and I have discussed, there is clearly a wave of new salon owners coming into our market. Please share the role that JK plays in the North American tanning industry.
Brynn: JK is the U.S. market-leader and maintains a nation-
wide distribution and service network. The North American market is primed for a renaissance and we will be at the helm when that happens, prepared with sufficient technology for this and future generations of the business of sunlight.
IST: Hans-Juergen, the landscape for manufacturing sunbeds has certainly gotten smaller over the last decade. What would you say drives the Ergoline brand to stay on top?
HJK: Brand excellence requires consistent focus on science, technology and branding. “Business as usual” is not adequate to sustain a more demanding consumer or changing regulatory landscape. In light of these considerations, we have adapted to ensure that we have the right equipment line-up to serve both customer and investor interests, while constantly advancing technologically.
I’d like to thank Hans-Juergen and Brynn for granting me this interview and congratulate all of the JK companies, staff and distributors for this outstanding achievement with the Ergoline brand. On behalf of IST Magazine, all the best for future success!
Since 1997, IST Magazine (formerly known as Island Sun Times) has been committed to the success of salon professionals, while promoting the growth of the tanning industry as a whole.
Copyright 2016 ist Magazine