When four of the industry’s largest manufacturers joined forces to host the 6th Annual West Coast Tanning Expo, they created more than a first class event … it was tanning industry history!
This year’s premiere industry event was co-hosted by Australian Gold, Devoted Creations, Ergoline and Supre Tan, and co-sponsored by Four Seasons Sales & Service and Light Sources, Inc. The concept was to create an event that combined staff motivation with the most effective customer service, sales and marketing techniques; in short, it offered everything today’s salon professional needs to succeed. The collaboration between the event’s four co-hosts and two sponsors – and their combined years of experience as industry leaders – practically guaranteed that attendees had access to a variety of education, entertainment and the latest tanning equipment, lotions and accessories, while also producing a tanning event that was as fun and entertaining as it was informational. The result was several satisfied event organizers and even more happy attendees.
For the past five years, the end-of-the-season “Vegas show” was hosted by the folks at JK-North America. The idea was to create an event that was convenient for West Coasters to attend, and it soon began attracting salon pros from all over the U.S. and Canada. This year, the event was co-hosted by Australian Gold, Devoted Creations, Ergoline and Supre Tan, companies whose personnel were able to build upon JK-North America’s previous successes. “Over 1,100 tanning professionals representing nearly 400 salons attended, which is a 15 percent increase over the number of salons last year,” said Nina Neuschuetz, JK-North America Director of Marketing. “More than 100 of those salons were new to the Vegas expo, and all the vendors were thrilled by the large number of new and veteran salon owners. Such an influx of people eager to learn as much as they could indicates that the tanning industry is thriving and doing well.”
What’s the Word?
A day before the Expo officially began, California Tan offered its “Doctorate of Sunless” training program at Caesars Palace. This was developed to educate salon employees on spray-tanning and skin-preparation techniques, as well as a host of other sunless-related topics, and was attended by 100 tanning pros. Sandra Cooper and Tammy Goolsby, co-owners of Ooh La Laa Tanning Salon in Cookeville, TN, benefitted from this course. “We opened our salon on April 6 and had no intention of offering sunless because people in our community told us it turned their skin orange,” said Sandra. “Now, we’re ready to reconsider that decision. During the first portion of the program, we learned all about the importance of prepping the skin before spray-tanning in order to avoid the orange look, and the instruction portion on spray tan application was also very informative. The experience definitely changed our minds!”
From beginning to end, the Expo offered an educational smorgasbord. “This year, it really seemed geared toward owners looking to improve their business and I’m extremely happy with that,” said Heather Hallahan, co-owner of Glow Tan in Long Beach, CA. “When I started working at my dad’s salon at the age of 14, my dream was to one day own as many tanning businesses as I could; but lately, the teen-tanning bans, Tan Tax and recession have left me a bit discouraged. After hearing Jerry Deveney share the many ways for a small salon to become a super salon, I’m re-energized about this industry and can’t wait to start using everything I’ve learned!”
The educational presentations left Legedu Naanee and his wife, Erin Battle, with more than enough advice to implement at their two Urban Sun Tan locations in San Diego, CA. “The tanning industry is always changing and evolving, which makes the Expo a great place to go to learn different strategies to keep our business current,” said Legedu. “We’re very fortunate to have some time to talk with Mike Blore (California Sun) and Scott Swerland (Seattle Sun Tan), and they were kind enough to give us so much information about pricing structures, demographics and many other things to help us remain efficient and profitable.” Since Legedu is an NFL free agent and former wide receiver for the San Diego Chargers, his presence at the Expo caused some excitement among the many football fans in attendance.
Ask the Panel …
By allowing attendees to pick the brains of a group of tanning industry veterans, the expert Q&A session was a hit this year. Moderated by Jerry Deveney (JK-North America), the panel featured Adrienne Aaron (Electrik Beach), Mike Blore (California Sun), Christie Dent (The Australian Tanning Company), Lance Donnelly (Tan Republic), Faraje Kharsa (iTan), Vince Lorraine, (ist Magazine/Sun Is Life/Tropi-Tan), Daniel Mann (Tropical Tan), Jason Neely (Palm Beach Tan), and Scott Swerland (Seattle Sun Tan). “This was the first panel session we’ve had in the last couple of years that included no discussion of the Tan Tax,” said Deveney. “This shows that salon owners are focused on increasing their customer counts and revenue. There were a lot of great questions about equipment mixes, marketing and promotions and selling EFT memberships, and everyone on the panel offered some very helpful advice.”
Smaller salons can still thrive in today’s market as long as they have a solid plan in place, says Mike Blore. “Salon owners who hear so much conflicting information about marketing their businesses find it difficult to put a solid plan together,” he said. “For example, despite what some might say about print advertising, I believe it can be extremely effective for those who don’t have the budget to do radio or TV. The secret to using print is to attract bargain-hunters so you can convert them into long-term tanners.” As an example, Blore used California Sun’s latest special – purchase one week of tanning for $9.95, which is just $2.95 more than the single-session price. Blore’s staff offers those attracted to this special the option of tanning for the whole month for just $10 more. “About eighty-eight percent of these customers end up purchasing a membership,” he added.
The advice Blore gave during the panel discussion struck a chord with Stephanie Burton, owner of Hollywood Tan in Federal Way, WA. “I liked everything he and the other panel members had to share, and I was particularly impressed with his $9.95/week offer as an incentive to get people in the door and increase sales of monthly memberships. I also learned a lot of product info and sales tips from the presentations by John P. Johnson (Supre Tan) and Lisa Parsons (Devoted Creations).”
To help them continue to be successful, Expo attendees were treated to 23 unique educational presentations scheduled throughout the event’s two days. Keynote speaker Lourdes “Luly B.” Balepogi offered two unique presentations designed to get attendees thinking and doing. Her first, “Receiving Through Giving: How to Enjoy Great Success by Putting Others First,” focused on achieving success through giving. “This has always been one of Luly’s most valuable business principles and the many examples she offered seemed to have resonated well with the crowd,” said Nina Neuschuetz. “Her second presentation, ‘Making Yourself a Priority Without Apologizing for It,’ centered on how women can better balance work and family obligations. She encouraged attendees to delegate duties in both areas of their lives to offer balance.”
While the Expo was an educational extravaganza, it also offered entertainment one might expect to find at its Las Vegas venue. MO5AIC, the “five-man vocal supernova” best known for its appearances on Season 4 of “America’s Got Talent,” entertained attendees with its own brand of vocal collaboration that combines elements of funk, pop, rock, jazz and R&B. “We’ve had a variety of different entertainment acts over the past five years of the Expo’s history and we wanted to offer something different, so we were delighted to hear that MO5AIC was available,” Nina said. “They are very talented and really engaged the crowd – everyone was on their feet and many got out of their seats and danced in front of the stage. It was great to see a total party going on at 11am!”
When Professor Tony Brown said that it’s “Time for Change” in the tanning industry, attendees responded with a collective, “It’s about time.” Brown, Sun Is Life Director, officially announced that ist Magazine’s interactive training and certification program is now the industry’s first officially-licensed Trade School. “When you visit any cosmetologist, hairdresser or nail technician, you’ll see that they display their official, state-issued license to be a tradesperson,” said Brown. “Like those professions, the tanning industry is also a trade, and we need to treat it as one so we can lend credibility to the services we provide. Getting salon staff professionally trained by a trade school with a systematic and standardized format is a crucial element in regaining the respect our trade deserves.” The crowd responded positively to Brown’s message of increasing professionalism in the industry and Sun Is Life’s role in that process. (See related story.)
For the two years Lianna Balestracci worked as a manager for Ultimate Tanning in Las Vegas, she never had the opportunity to attend the West Coast Expo. This year, she not only attended, she also won a SUN ANGEL S46 sunbed valued at $54,995! “I was so surprised because I’m the type of person who never wins anything,” said Lianna. “It was the coolest moment.” Lianna says her boss, John Christou, is also very happy that the brand new sunbed will be making its home at Ultimate Tanning. “We’re still preparing and making room for it and can’t wait until it gets here!” she added. More than 30 salon owners took home more than $100,000 in giveaways and prizes donated by Expo exhibitors.
With four co-hosts, two sponsors and a plethora of vendors, the 6th Annual West Coast Expo was the biggest in the event’s history. The result, says Nina Neuschuetz, was a show that gave all involved a sense of pride and accomplishment. “I would like to thank our co-hosts – Australian Gold, Devoted Creations, Ergoline and Supre Tan – as well as our sponsors – Four Seasons Sales & Service and Light Sources, Inc. – for helping us create such a wonderful event!” she exclaimed. “Everyone was committed to the goal of providing the attendees with the best possible experience and I strongly believe we were able to achieve that. We would also like to thank the many exhibitors and attendees who helped make this event the huge success that it was.”
A 14-year industry veteran, John "Ribby" Ribner has written hundreds of
articles for IST Magazine and, as Director of Editorial Content, has also
helped guide the publication's evolution. Ribby is a graduate of Central
Michigan University's journalism program and has brought many years of newspaper reporting experience to his position of Head Writer. He is also the author of three novels, "Legacy of the Bear," "Prophecy of the Bear" and "World So Dark."
Copyright 2020 ist Magazine