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After owning tanning salons and then selling them more than 20 years ago, I am inspired by the incredible sun spas of today. So many of you great entrepreneurial owners make it look so fun, so fulfilling and rewarding. I must confess that I find myself missing salon ownership and frequently think of how I would do it if I were to start over again today.
When I first entered this industry in 1983, there was no guideline or blueprint for the perfect salon. Equipment designs were basic and very limited, central timer systems were rudimentary, rooms were all the same size and just big enough to fit the beds. Box fans sat on the floor at the ends of the sunbeds because the rooms got so hot. There were no frills. Lotions were virtually non-existent – my salons were top-of-the-line because we offered our guests pump-type lotion and spray deodorant! In fact, while we had a few lotion choices after a few years, we spent more time telling tanners to stop using their oil-based lotion (and straight-up baby oil) during their sessions because it ruined the acrylic shields.
Getting customers in the door was a challenge, as most people had never used a sunbed before; they were not at all sure if indoor tanning really worked. High-end marketing consisted of paper window signs, post cards, Yellow Pages, coupon books, etc. Back then, social media was called word-of-mouth and it always worked the best. All of this took a lot of effort and expense – for little return. And at the end of the day, five-session packages were selling for $29.95 or ten for $55.
Fast-forward to 2020, and the opportunity to join the tanning industry is exciting, respected and very profitable – when done properly. I see today’s salon as a sanctuary where people go to enjoy the many sun and spa services now available within one space. From sunbeds at different levels, spray-tanning, red-light therapy, cryotherapy, dry and wet sauna pods and lotions that range from $20 to $180, there are endless opportunities for creating an amazing oasis for salon customers.
Today, my storefront would have high-tech LED signs displaying a name that includes the word “sun” – a word that has a much more positive vibe now than it did years ago, and more impact than the word “tanning.” Guests would enter a brightly-lit reception area with vibrant and fresh materials and textures to create an exciting retail space. Transitioning to the sun and spa rooms, the décor would reflect a more relaxing feel as they reach their destination – the oasis of their sun/spa room. The floorplan would allow guests to see premium sunbeds from their first step inside the salon. When not in use, these high-end beds would create a buzz with their amazing LED light-shows, basically marketing themselves. When the bed was in use, a mini-billboard located next to the room would display features of the unit that provide a premium experience. Ambient music would be consistent throughout all the rooms and areas. Most, if not all rooms would have walls built to the ceiling for 100% privacy and added value. With the proper provisions and planning in the building stages, cooling system(s) would cool the rooms and allow total privacy, making the salon a true destination for relaxation.
As guests check in, they would have the choice of up to four different tanning levels that may go from basic to advanced, with optional UV, red-light, body mist, aroma and so much more to make each tanning session a unique user experience. In service and retail areas, monitors would play a video loop showing key product and equipment features and benefits, as well as promos, pricing and upgrades.
At my salon today, the guest tour (the “closer” of yesteryear) would rely much more heavily on visual merchandising and aides. We are a visual world. From the décor, retail displays and signage to the equipment and yes, the staff, all elements should combine to attract, engage and ultimately motivate the customer toward a purchase.
As the Vice President of Sales at PC Tan, Paul enjoys his role so much that he says his job is more of a “hobby that comes with a paycheck.” With 36 years in the industry and having been with PC Tan since 1997, Paul understands the business from the salon owner’s perspective and has also developed world-class equipment expertise. He relishes the opportunity to work closely with salon partners and loves going beyond his traditional job duties to ensure that the business he works with are maximizing their potential.
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