As we enter 2016 and approach tanning’s busy season, I felt it appropriate to visit with some of the industry’s leading product providers – starting with lamp manufacturers. I spoke with Michael Stepp of Wolff System Technology Corp., Gene Czako of Light Sources and Kevin Apgar of Cosmedico Light. Having worked with each of these gentlemen either directly or indirectly, I respect their unique capabilities and admirable traits. Each of them has been involved in our industry throughout three decades. I recently interviewed them and asked a series of questions to provide some insight as to what is in store for tanning professionals in 2016 and beyond.
Czako: I would say that although the salon operators and their customers may not see significant changes, the industry never stops working to improve lamp performance. Today’s lamps outlast any product made perhaps as recently as just 3-4 years ago. Continuous effort goes into making products more economical by constantly working toward improved maintenance of the phosphors and reduced end-blackening for longer lamp life. We also work on decreasing the environmental impact of sunlamps by reducing mercury levels and employing the most environmentally friendly manufacturing processes.
As the world develops more efficient power supplies (as most units today have gone to electronic power supplies), we have re-engineered products to optimize the lamp performance for both the UV intensity and lamp life. In addition to these changes, as various government regulations change around the world, we work to create the best lamp and sunbed combinations to meet the limits of the local regulations, while still offering products that deliver the best possible tanning results.
Stepp: We should note that as the general lighting market moves to smaller diameter fluorescent lamps, the standard T12 sunlamps used in the indoor tanning business will become more and more a specialty product. Look to the reduction of T12 sunlamp makers these past few years: Philips, then GTE Sylvania stopped producing them. The shift to T12 as a specialty fluorescent lamp ostensibly means lower volume production which can result in higher prices, or other sunlamp makers getting out of the T12 business, perhaps even both. Consolidation continues in the sunlamp industry. On July 1, 2015, Wolff System acquired the operations of Heraeus North America for both high-pressure and low-pressure sunlamp products. We look forward to offering the fine tradition of the Heraeus sunlamps.
Apgar: Our company name has been linked to quality since its inception. As we move forward, we are concentrating our efforts to produce lamps that offer not only exceptional output, but are consistent throughout the life of the lamp. For years, I’ve told salon owners the same story about sunlamp quality. Would you buy cheap tires for your expensive vehicle? Would you buy cheap shingles for your roof to protect your home and your family? Our products are not the lowest priced available, but the old adage “you get what you pay for”, certainly holds true from our perspective. Salon operators who investing in a high-quality sunlamp find that it ultimately pays for itself many times over in the long run.
Stepp: The best advice I can offer is to manage your salon to maximize revenues in all aspects of the business, and minimize regulatory distractions by complying with regulations. This entails strict attention to decisions based on value, not just the first cost. Smart identification and solicitation of new customer prospects should be a daily consideration … get them and keep them!
Apgar: My best advice to a newcomer is to invest in salon operator education. Clearly, the training and certification that Sun is Life® offers is outstanding information. It’s so important for salon owners and their staff to know the tanning business inside and out. But another aspect of learning falls under “business.” The days of simply buying tanning beds and opening a facility are a thing of the distant past. You have to invest in such things as staff sales training, understanding P/L, customer service practices and more.
Employee turnover is still high in our industry, but you have to invest in their training. If they see they can make more money by generating product and service sales and earning more commissionable dollars, they are more likely to stay with you as employees. I’d also suggest they consult with their product distributor and/or lotion provider, as they may offer some solid educational tools to assist with training.
Czako: I think that one of the biggest mistakes some people are making is not purchasing the most current equipment available on the market. As I previously mentioned, with the development of new power supplies and lamp combinations, it is possible to see a reduction in energy consumption by as much as 30%, while still maintaining the tanning power of the device as compared to older units. This energy savings also leads to reduced air conditioning costs, more comfortable tanning sessions, and longer lamp life.
I guess the second biggest mistake I see operators make is shopping for economy lamps to “save a buck” up front. I have never seen the logic in saving 15% on the cost of a lamp to have it last only 400 hours, instead of purchasing a quality product that can perhaps give you 1,000 hours of life. When I started in the industry (decades ago) a quality 100W lamp would degrade about 25% in the first 100 hours of use. Today, no 100W lamp should degrade by 25% in less than 600-800 hours. Buying quality up front will slice your operating costs in half in the long run.
Since the late 1970s, the tanning industry has been regulated by the Food and Drug Administration’s 21CFR1040.20. In 2014 (and effective in 2015), the FDA moved to reclassify sunlamps and sunbeds from Class I to Class II medical devices (special controls) and subject to pre-market approval. In recent weeks, the FDA moved to propose an additional rulemaking which would include a ban on indoor tanning for those 18 years old and younger, and additional consents regarding comprehension of the tanning systems warning label. Although it is not law at this time, it still must go through a public comment period and may take months to implement, if passed. I asked, “What if any impact will this change have on the industry?”
Apgar: Let me first go over the proposed FDA rules. The comment period closes on March 21, 2016, and is followed by a review. There are two main proposed rules: indoor tanning facilities would not be allowed to offer tanning services to people under age 18. Adult users would have to sign a certification acknowledging that they have been informed of the health risks related to the use of indoor tanning devices. Adults would sign this certification before their first indoor tanning session, and every six months after that. The intent is that certification would help the FDA make sure indoor tanning facilities are giving consumers truthful and easy-to-read information. This certification also would help adults make informed decisions. If the FDA’s second proposed rule on sunlamp products (regarding performance standards) becomes final, it would require manufacturers and indoor tanning facilities to take more actions to protect consumers. Some other notable proposed changes would include:
visible light allowed through protective eyewear to protect tanners’ eyes from
intense light (current standards already include that eyewear must block 99%
of UVA and 99.9 % of UVB)
sure they are using the correct bulbs, reducing the risk of accidental burns;
installing stronger bulbs) without re-certifying and re-identifying the device
with the FDA; and,
“panic button”) that users can easily find and identify by touch or sight.
We look forward to working in unison with the FDA in the efforts to
maintain the safe use of sunlamps and sunbeds.
Stepp: As we’ve previously noted, some of the proposed changes are in the “comment” period now, and perhaps chief among them is a national under-18 ban. Although some may disagree, a large percentage of this group represents short-term tanners; those who want to be tan just for prom or special events. Those 18 and younger make up a very small group of core tanners for most salons, with the exception perhaps being those facilities located near educational facilities. Realistically, this may cost the industry only a small percentage of current sales/income.
Salon operators need to adapt and really market to the “new-to-tanning prospects” in an effort to offset the ban and reduce its impact. Also under consideration is a different lamp compatibility system. Using the European (IEC) model of lamp ratings would make it easier on salon owners (and inspectors) to meet compatibility compliance; but on the downside, it can camouflage significant quality/value differences between one maker’s products and another’s. They have also included a consent decree, which involves all tanners periodically signing (and re-signing) warning notices. The impact is just a little more paperwork to record, but should not be of major significance.
Czako: The FDA’s reclassification of lamps and tanning beds to Class ll medical devices went into effect on August 26, 2015. This requires the manufacturers to do new medical device reports (501k), and make changes in the product labeling and additional user warnings. At the salon level, all existing tanning systems should now be labeled with the new “black box” label required by the FDA, which recommends that people under the age of 18 do not tan indoors. If they have not done so yet, salon owners should contact their product distributor to get the updated warning labels. In addition to this, the FDA has recently proposed changes in the performance standards for tanning products. Quite frankly, the FDA has not updated the standards since 1985 and revisions have been expected for a long time.
The proposals are in the interest of updating the regulations to more current science, and to merge the regulations to be more in line with the current regulations in Europe (IEC standards). The proposals are currently in the stage of waiting for public comment and various organizations within our industry are looking in detail at the proposals to clearly understand the impact on our industry. It is important to understand that the FDA has only selected certain sections of the IEC standards to merge with updated knowledge of the effects of tanning on our skin. Some of the changes may lead to annual limits on tanning, changes to the method of calculating exposure schedules from the manufacturers, additional customer record-keeping, and a variety of changes in the warnings required with the devices.
Keep in mind that this is still in the stage of being proposed amendments, and as we know more details of the final proposals on how to initiate the new regulations, we will keep our customers and the industry informed to keep them compliant under the new rules.
IST thanks these industry veterans for contributing their expertise on critical issues impacting the tanning business, as well as their advice to those who have pursued and will pursue salon operation as a livelihood. We will continue to consult with leaders from other industry sectors to provide you with insight into our future.
A 26-year industry veteran, Joe has taught certified salon operator training for the last 15 years, as well as advocating indoor tanning in many capacities. Joe is a sought-after speaker and presenter at both national & regional trade events, also interacting with the FDA, state & local regulatory agencies. During his most recent tenure with the ITA, he served as director of membership.
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