Owner: Paul Abdullah
Location: Jacksonville, FL
Years in Business: 25
UV Tanning Units: 7
Lotions: Designer Skin, Cal-Tan, JWOWW
Salon Software: Helios 12
Other Services: Mystic Kyss Sunless
Salon Training: Sun is Life®, of course!
Distributor Partner: Superior UV
Best-Selling Lotion: Designer Skin Reputation
Most Popular Package: One-Month
With all of the cold, wet, rainy, frosty, windy, etc, etc weather that ushered in 2021, it was nice to see that our Salon of Distinction reins from the Sunshine State. Paul Abdullah is an industry vet who has certainly experienced the “ups and downs” of the tan biz. I caught up with Paul for our interview on a recent cold and rainy afternoon that put me in the mood for some FL sunshine. Read on, I know you’ll enjoy it!
IST: Each month, the Salon of Distinction subject informs our readers how their salon got started. So, tell us how you found your way into the business.
PA: Joe, I have been an entrepreneur since I was a kid selling candy in school and learned supply and demand at an early age. In my early twenties, I was working for a payroll company meeting small-and-medium-sized business owners and wasn’t really enjoying the corporate scene. I met an operator in Brunswick, GA who told me, very plainly, “go buy a tanning salon and I’ll teach you how to be successful.” True to his word, he told me his success secrets … and here I am, 25 years later!
IST: Did you start from the ground up or buy an existing salon? What made you pick that location or if you bought an existing salon, what made it appealing?
PA: My first facility was the “starter salon.” It was inexpensive and allowed me to get my feet wet without the pressure of losing a lot. Within six months, I purchased a second from an acquaintance who wanted a change. With the knowledge I had learned, I was able to build the second Four Seasons salon into a very profitable business and sold the first salon after about a year. Fast-forward many years, when I had the desire to build a salon from scratch. That salon opened January 2007, right before things collapsed. It was a struggle; but somehow, I made it through and even re-opened a salon in 2010 that had closed a month prior. Eventually, three salons turned into two and as of a month ago, I’m down to operating only my flagship store.
IST: Clearly, you’ve done what it takes to weather the storms. Moving on, most salons have a “brag point” or something that makes them stand out amongst competitors. Without revealing any secrets, what’s yours?
PA: It’s hard to pinpoint just one thing, but our guests always say we are the cleanest salon with the friendliest staff. I teach my team to listen to what the guest is asking for and sell them the package that suits their needs. Don’t oversell them just to make a few quick dollars! Customer relationships are what we build to succeed in business.
IST: You mentioned to me that you make sure your staff is trained with our Sun is Life® Certification. I’m sure you’ll agree that training is a critical element for success. What were your takeaways from our online training? Would you recommend it to others?
PA: Knowledge is power! I can’t tell you how many times a guest has “heard” false info about tanning from someone. We are the professionals, and the entire staff has to know the answers to our guests’ questions. The online format makes it easy to get everyone on the same page.
IST: As the U.S. indoor tanning industry continues into our fifth decade, salon pros have faced plenty of adversity. What would you say has been your biggest obstacle to overcome?
PA: Beside 2020 and COVID-19, running a seasonal business has its own obstacles. But to that point, we sanitize everything each morning before guests arrive, and then clean normally throughout the day. The staff currently wears masks at all times when customers are in the salon. In addition, I believe the media has scared a generation of tanners away from salons. Our job is to take every opportunity to educate potential customers.
IST: Best recommendation in dealing with customer complaints?
PA: I like to solve the problem quickly. It’s tanning – not life or death! The goal is to make the guest happy and wanting to return to the salon in the future, without giving away the farm to do it.
IST: Good point! Alright, what are the immediate goals for Four Seasons?
PA: After recently closing a facility due to a lease disagreement, I’m going to focus on building my current salon as we come out of a horrible 2020. I will pursue a new opportunity to expand when the time is right and I look forward to another 25 years!
IST: Paul, thanks for sharing with our readers. All the best to you in 2021 and beyond.
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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