Last month, sunless tanning system manufacturers offered their feedback on a variety of topics. This month, I’ve picked a solid cross-section of UV equipment manufacturers to share their insights. Beginning with a no-frills, “stock” version, 24-lamp sunbed of the 80s to today’s technology-laden, 50-lamp-and-more “Lexus” ride superbeds – things sure have changed.
Back when I started in the industry, sunbed customization might have meant availability in more than one color! I have worked with each of these companies either directly or indirectly for years and know many of these players personally. They each bring a wealth of information to the table. Whether you’re an industry veteran or new to the marketplace, I’m sure that there’s some information here for you to glean.
IST invited Philip Doffegnies of ProSun, Tom Feekin of Heartland Tan, Tom Holland of Sun Capsule, Susan Miller of PC Tan and Brynn Scarborough of JK-North America to sit at our roundtable and discuss their views on sunbed technology.
Susan: Today’s commercial tanning systems are so sophisticated, full-featured, solid performing and dependable that the opportunities for real improvement will be harder and harder to come up with! Some of the most interesting features for the future may include accommodation for personal mobile devices – things that will make a tanner’s time in the unit even more enjoyable by way of entertainment. Just as with KBL, one of their most recently added features is Bluetooth connectivity. Development of an efficient lamp drive system for high-pressure lamps is a big opportunity right now, as well. Electronic ballasts are now very dependable power supplies for low-pressure lamps, and it is reasonable to think that in the next five years, an effective and dependable electronic ballast for all wattages of high-pressure lamps could be developed. All manufacturers provide incredible equipment that delivers accurately measured amounts of UV output to assist the user in developing a responsible tan. Everything beyond that is truly icing on the cake!
Tom H: I believe we need to continue to evolve our equipment technology so it can run more cost effectively for salon owners, and at the same time, continue to have a product that creates customer loyalty by delivering optimal results.
Brynn: The future of tanning is built around customization for the individual tanner and for the business owner. The ability to utilize technology and innovation to eliminate over-exposure and user error will become a theme in upcoming years, as well as the ability to incorporate sensor-controlled tanning for more tanners, on more equipment levels. Exciting new options that feature the inclusion of hybrid applications, Bluetooth session control and innovative new salon operating systems are all in the pipeline for upcoming seasons with Ergoline.
Tom F: We are constantly working on more efficient power sources in parallel with our lamp manufacturer on new lamp technology that will match up well with the more efficient power sources. Of course, the new FDA reclassification has sunbeds/booths and sunlamps listed as Class II medical devices with special controls. This includes having manufacturers filing 510K pre-market approval reports which are very extensive and expensive. We have always enjoyed a competitive marketplace in our industry and welcome the competition. Unfortunately, a by-product of these additional requirements could be fewer sunbed/booth equipment manufacturers.
Philip: We think that maybe other lamp technology may come into play in the future, more monitoring data remotely available (via the Cloud) of the equipment itself, keeping equipment inviting/appealing and keeping the highest standards in user friendliness for performance and maintenance.
Tom F: With the new emphasis from the FDA on tanning equipment documentation, new owners should be aware of basic requirements on equipment, no matter if they are in a regulated or non-regulated state. Some of those include:
Of course, a lot of the equipment currently in use in salons today has seen its useful life expectancy in terms of appearance, performance and safety. The older equipment is not even remotely as energy efficient as the newer models on the market. If you “do the math,” your electric bill is higher with an energy-inefficient sunbed, your lamp replacement costs are higher in the older systems (lamp hours can be shortened in overheated/poorly cooled sunbeds), and your facility’s entire HVAC system has to work harder. Any of these problems can produce an unsatisfactory experience for new tanners, which is something a new operator simply cannot afford in today’s competitive market.
Philip: Re-invent, re-market. Research other amenities/products you can offer to attract new customers and retain existing clientele. Nowadays, a tanning salon is/should be more like a tanning “spa” – expand the possibilities of creating new and more automated spa services, such as aqua massage.
Tom H: Salon owners both veteran and new need to make sure that they maintain a look with their facilities that is current/relevant, as well as maintaining a footprint that allows them to maximize their dollars per square foot. Lastly, they need to maintain constant personal connection with their customer base.
Brynn: The best advice that those new to the industry will receive is to build a firm foundation for their business on quality equipment, offer high-end, boutique customer service and become experts in our field. It is not enough to have an order-taker representing your brand and business behind the counter. As a new business owner in the tanning industry, it is important to understand the science, technology and even the biology that drives our business forward.
Susan: Invest in quality equipment. Certainly, it may be less expensive to buy used units; however, that could turn into a “pay me now or pay me later” scenario. Salons can’t afford downtime with equipment, especially during the spring season.
Brynn: Ergoline is working inclusively with other manufacturers to ensure that our industry is given the strongest and most consistent representation to regulatory agencies. We are also collaborating with the FDA, as we have successfully done in the past, to submit amendments and comments in response to the proposed regulation changes and we are expecting a productive outcome.
Philip: At ProSun, we always promote responsible tanning by providing our customers with the proper educational material and keeping our equipment up to all regulated standards; however, the FDA changes that are being discussed would have a negative effect on the tanning industry, impacting manufacturers, suppliers, businesses and consumers. We believe that everyone in the tanning industry should work together toward creating a responsible and functional tanning environment. Providing consumers with the proper information will allow everyone to safely enjoy the benefits that tanning equipment has to offer.
Tom H: The government has continued to place undue burden on our industry. While not many want the under-18 ban, I think it is inevitable. I would like to give tremendous credit to each and every salon owner I speak to who has worked aggressively to cultivate their business beyond the 18 and older tanner. Salon owners are resilient, and I know as with everything we have been confronted with, we will manage this obstacle and continue to see our industry grow.
Susan: It’s clear that the proposed rules from the FDA represent the culmination of significant efforts and prodding by those who want to close our industry down. The Indoor Tanning Association has worked hard in developing the industry response to these proposed rules. However, it remains to be seen just how much will clear past the public comment period and how much effect they could have. Certainly, a ban on indoor tanning for people age 18 and under could be troubling for many salons.
Tom F: The proposed rule that has many in our industry concerned is probably the 18-and-under ban. However, the main demographic for our industry has traditionally been the female, 18-35-year-old segment. Although many salons have allowed people age 18 and under to tan in states that still allow it, the immediate impact (should this rule take effect), would more than likely be on those who have salons located in close proximity to a college or high school. Of course, the intended result of this rule is the behavior modification of the 18-and-under set to get them to abstain from tanning. However, unless the FDA intends to also prohibit tanning outdoors, this group will continue outdoor sun exposure on ballfields, parks, lakes, beaches and pools where, unfortunately, the likelihood of sunburn and overexposure are greatly increased! But, I’m an optimist. You might lose them as a UV customer, but you have a great opportunity to retain their business by offering them a sunless tan!
IST thanks these industry professionals for their contribution to this article.
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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