We Are Sunshine

Full Circle: Spa services help tanning businesses gain and sustain momentum in all facets

Friday, June 21st, 2024

A lesser-known phrase than its undesirable counterpart, a “virtuous circle” occurs when one good thing happening causes other good things to happen, which causes the first thing to continue happening, and so on in perpetuity.

In the modern tanning industry, the phrase could be used to describe the increasingly popular “tanning spa” business model. When you add additional services that appeal to tanners and non-tanners alike, you create a virtuous circle in which you can introduce tanners to spa services and spa clients to tanning, and the more clients you get on either side, the more people will hear about all the great services you offer and come see what the hype is all about. With a larger customer base and more capital at your disposal, you can continue to add more services for all your customers to enjoy….and around and around we go, with your business gaining popularity and profitability all along the way.

Today, more and more tanning businesses are moving to various phases of a tanning spa model, with some even changing the names of their businesses to reflect the shift. Nearly all of these businesses still rely on tanning for the vast majority of their revenue but repositioning their business models provides a number of benefits. The obvious ones are appealing to non-tanners and increasing off-season traffic, but there are also considerations based on perceptions of the business and the ways clients interact with it.

Last month we discussed the emerging role of red light therapy in tanning businesses, suggesting that red light should now be an integral element of most every salon. Particularly when coupled with hybrid tanning units that combine red light and UV, the service also serves to “connect the dots” between your tanning services and any other wellness or beauty services you have or might want to add.

So, if hybrid units and red light therapy are the links between tanning and spa services, what comes next? There are more options out there than you’ll ever be able to incorporate under one roof, and salons around the country are utilizing various mixes of beauty and wellness services, some of which are “plug and play,” much like tanning equipment, and others that require operation by trained technicians.

Whether you want to go all in on a tanning spa model or simply generate some extra revenue and give clients a reason to come in during the tanning off-season, there are plenty of reason to believe that adding additional services to your tanning business is a winning proposition. You own a business that people already come to because they want to look and feel better. Many of your customers already go elsewhere for additional wellness and beauty treatments. In most cases, you can provide the same services at more competitive prices than traditional spas and maintain solid margins because they’re not your primary source of income. You already have clients’ trust and can offer them the convenience of simplifying their routine. The more customers you have for any service, the more opportunities you have to expose them to other options, and the more your customers visit and the longer they stay in the salon, the more opportunities you have to sell them more services and products that will help them reach their beauty and wellness goals.

Once you’ve stepped into the beauty and wellness game and developed a reputation and trust with some spa services, your success can begin to compound and additional earning opportunities are limited only by the square footage of your location.

“[With additional services], you’re maximizing your space. I’ve gotten rid of Level 1 tanning beds to have more rooms available. I only have one Level 1 at one location. I always had one room that was like a storage room, and now I have my cryo booth in there,” says Kirstin Estes, owner of Lux Tan & Cryo in Oregon.

“You evolve over the years. I’ve tried different things that didn’t work out, and I’ve learned from that. Just be creative and don’t be scared to try a different service because for all you know it might be the next most popular treatment you have.”

Plug and Play

While introducing wellness or esthetic services that require manual application from a trained staff members can be a profitable endeavor, the most practical option for most tanning businesses is to add red light as well as other services that are as simple to operate as your tanning equipment. These service options can range from providing beauty and skin care results to wellness benefits such as muscle recovery, reduced inflammation, and detoxification.

You can always start slow and take it step by step. There are plenty of new or used diversification options that can be used as additional incentives for tanning memberships or to generate additional revenue with session or memberships for one service or a comprehensive spa package. Whether it’s a higher- or lower-end service, it’s smart to consider adding client-operated equipment because after the initial investment it requires very little time and money moving forward.

Some of the best equipment options available from our industry suppliers include the SmartSun Therapy SST28, The Cocoon Wellness Pro RED, distributed by Tanning Supplies Unlimited and 2nd Sun Tan, the Cocoon Aqua IR Hydration Pro Pod, the Hydro Massage 440 and 450 and the Aquafrixio hydro massage system, all distributed by 2nd Sun Tan.

Lux Tan and Cryo, with four locations in Oregon, including one brand new location, has become a market leader in diversification by offering a wide range of services for both beauty and wellness, with several options that are client-operated as well as many that are performed by an esthetician. Their client-operated equipment includes red light therapy, whole-body cryotherapy, and compression therapy. Estes also added two new services that are unique to her new location – Electric Muscle Stimulation and Scult Pod Pro – in order to generate some added hype for the grand opening and continue to appeal to more clientele that don’t utilize their other options.

“I just want to be that one-stop-shop for wellness and beauty. People have memberships for cryo, tanning, red light or body slimming plate. I want to offer everything to help you look better and feel better,” Estes says.

As you may have already read in this month’s Member of the Month article, Ron Haskett’s Tropical Tan in Michigan is on the other end of the spectrum as far as progress into the spa-services lane. After spending several years focusing more on other business ventures while his salon remained successful, Haskett has recently turned his attention back to setting his salon up for sustained growth.

While UV tanning will no doubt continue to provide the majority of revenue, he’s recognized that there’s only so much more room for growth with UV on its own, so he’s focusing his efforts on sunless and diversification. While he’s just started adding new services, he’s already prepared to pursue his new vision by expanding into an adjacent space to pursue his new vision, and he now has 25 total rooms to work with.

His first step into spa services was the Formostar Body Wrap, and he’s been pleased with the results thus far, with multiple sessions scheduled every day at prices of $49 for single sessions, $200 for five, $350 for 10 and $250 for a month unlimited.

Worth the Effort?

The “hands-on” segment of beauty and wellness services is something that less salons tend to pursue because of the added complications ongoing costs associated with operation. But, with additional challenges come additional opportunities. As long as you have enough options and enough customers to keep your staff members who are dedicated to the services busy, most of the hands-on options will produce significant revenue.

The progression into these types of services was natural for Estes because in Oregon airbrush spray tan technicians must be certified estheticians. Today, her hands-on offerings include localized cryotherapy, muscle relax massage, fire-n-ice facials, hydrafacials, dermaplaning and waxing.

“It worked really well because I have to offer airbrush tanning and I need an esthetician, so how can I maximize her role? Let’s do waxing and facials and body slimming, because I’m already paying her to be here, so let’s make sure her room is busy,” she says. “That’s a whole other world because you’re not just hiring a sales associate to ring up clients and clean beds where, as long as they have a good, outgoing personality, I can train on sales. When you’re talking about somebody who’s going to be spending 30 to 60 minutes with clients, you have to do more due diligence with hiring.

“I hired my first esthetician in 2014, and she still works for me. You have to pay them more because they’re an educated, licensed professional. You have to do a little more of an interview process, and you can also do a practical interview where you’re having that candidate do a treatment on you so you can feel their touch. It’s all about having a good touch, and especially with spray tanning, you have to have a good hand. It’s like art. You need to have the right flow and consistency. These are result-driven positions, so it’s important to get a talented esthetician, and you want somebody that’s results-driven and cares about the actual client and getting those results.”

While it may be daunting to consider paying more to hire an esthetician or getting your staff members licensed, it’s an up-front investment not unlike paying for new equipment that will continue to pay off while requiring less of your time and money as you go. Particularly if you use a commission-based structure for services that your staff members perform, they should be highly motivated to stay busy and continue making more money for themselves as well as your business.

“If you get a good esthetician and they make those relationships with the clients, you’re set. You do want an esthetician who knows how to sell. You never want your client to leave without rebooking their next appointment,” Estes says.

Once a client has a good experience and good results from the person performing their treatments, your staff should find success getting them to try other options or utilize any new services you might introduce in the future.

“The thing is if you start off right and build good rapport, they’ll buy anything from you if it’s good. Then you have that trust,” Estes says. “You have to have a passion for the industry. I’m always reading about the latest in the spa and esthetic world, or I listen to podcasts to get ideas. You have to keep evolving.”

While some salons choose to add some revenue and fill unused space by renting rooms to estheticians, and thus avoid the costs and complications associated with traditional hiring and training, Estes chooses to keep all of the services under her roof under her control and ownership. That way, her efforts to promote her services and the salon as a whole pay off directly to her rather than someone else.

A Different Vibe

While increasing revenue is the main goal, embracing diversification can also have secondary benefits that will lead back to more money and sustainability in the end. Moving toward a spa model can change the way customers view and interact with your business.

Your current customers are obviously happy with the current positioning of your business, but others might hold misguided perspectives about tanning or even what a modern tanning salon really is. Changing your positioning might be what it takes to show more people what your tanning services are really about. Don’t be offended if new clients for other services hold negative views about UV tanning. Embrace the opportunity to educate them.

“I have a customer who comes in almost every day for cryo and cryo facial, and she was like, ‘You know I don’t tan, but can you tell me about that one bed you see when you walk in?’ She asked if it’d be bad if she did five or six minutes,” Estes says.

Positioning as a tanning spa can also be a significant step toward becoming perceived as a more high-end service provider where people naturally expect to pay more. In conjunction with adding new services, Haskett has also done some rebranding and remodeling to change the vibe of the business. He’s keeping the tropical tanning salon theme that customers recognize but shifting it to be more spa-like.

Last year, in Smart Tan Magazine, we profiled Dennis Ligon, positing that Sundays Sun Spa “sets the standard” for modern tanning businesses. That standard is the quintessential tanning spa model, with high-end tanning and red light equipment by a range of spa and beauty services that make their all-inclusive EFTs irresistible. As Ligon has added spa services over the last decade or so, he’s also sought to provide a more spa-like environment to correspond with their offerings.

“We went from being like a Walmart to a boutique type clothing store. We wanted to upscale our experience and go for people that really take the tanning experience seriously – not cater to the people that come in two times a year,” he says.

Perhaps even more importantly, embracing a spa model can also change the way people interact with your business. Moderation is the key word in modern tanning, and today’s advanced tanning equipment is able to provide spectacular results in just a couple short sessions a week. It’s great to be able to provide that convenience for your customers, but they also might feel that they’re getting shorted on a premium membership if they’re only visiting a few times a week. Even if they don’t use other services often, having some included in memberships can help them feel better about that charge hitting their cards every month.

Fewer visits also means fewer opportunities for additional sales. By giving your clients more services options, you can increase the time they spend in the salon and the likelihood that they’ll continue to add more services to their routine and purchase additional products and merchandise.

With the right options in place, clients will begin to develop routines where they visit the salon and use a progression of different services. That relaxing 15-minute tanning session has now turned into a full-on spa experience. Or, they’ll embrace the opportunity to get out and relax more frequently and come in more often to use different services. That client that used to come in to tan twice a week now comes in twice more per week to use their favorite wellness or aesthetic services.

“In the old days, people would tan three or four times a week. When you think about how valuable somebody’s time is, that isn’t a good model anymore. Today’s client, with the kind of equipment we have, comes in once or twice a week, but they can make the most of the extra time it takes to drive to the salon, get undressed, get dressed again, and all that,” Ligon says.

“[My wife] Sue had the idea of having robes and nice Sundays bags. They say, ‘I want to tan and do the Aqua Cocoon and Beauty Angel.’ What we do is put you in the Beauty Angel, you go in with your robe, put your clothes in the bag, then the next thing, then the next. You might do three services and it becomes more like a day at the spa. It’s an easy sale for us because it’s an unlimited membership with eight spa services and spray for $58.88 a month, For the price of a massage, you get a whole month of pampering. That’s the new client we’re really attracting.”

Having a client use multiple services at once is obviously a good thing, and when they’re spending multiple hours in the salon per week, more good things are bound to happen, including even more service sales as well as additional product sales.

“Clients joke about it: ‘I have four appointments at Lux today; this is my spa day,’” Estes says. “I have a client right now who is a VIP customer. She is doing a platinum hydrafacial, a T-Shock on stomach and face, then ending her treatments with a 15-minute red light session. She’s just kind of obsessed with all the spa treatments and has seen a lot of results. We love clients like that because they’re literally in the salon for over three hours.”

Accelerating Progress

While Lux Tan & Cryo clients have the option to purchase any service by the session, Estes has created as many membership options as possible to provide convenience and affordability for regular clients. There are EFTs for cryotherapy and facials, and various tanning membership options to meet a variety of needs. “Lux Level” members have access to unlimited UV, red light, eight spray tans, and one cryotherapy session per month. There’s also a combined high-pressure tanning and red light membership, two other levels of tanning, “UV Free” spray and red light, and options for just spray tans or red light.

“Our main approach to selling is asking the client what they’re looking for and getting them into a membership or sessions package that works for them. Each person is different. That way we’re getting that person exactly what they need,” Estes says.

“You want to showcase what we offer but not overwhelm clients. When we have new clients that come in, we give them a tour. We don’t ask if they want one because half the time they’ll decline. We say, ‘Hey, my name is Kirstin, let me show you around.’ We walk them around and ask them questions throughout, making them a part of the conversation.”

With esthetic services performed by an esthetician, that staff member will obviously be intimately familiar with the services and the results they provide. But you should also aim for your staff to gain that level of familiarity with any service you offer, even if their job doesn’t entail operating the equipment hands-on.

“Letting staff actually use the services helps, too. We do team meetings, and we also have team parties where we let the staff try the services. We meet and touch base at the beginning then do services on each other,” Estes says.

Beyond ensuring that staff can communicate effectively about all the options, one of Estes’s most effective methods for encouraging people to try new options is frequently hosting service-based events. Lux Tan holds around four or five events a year, each centered around one particular service, offering great deals and some special touches that help generate excitement and make each occasion unique.

“That’s a huge factor in our company. We pick a service to showcase, then we have events based around that service. [Last year] we had a hydrafacial event. We had cupcakes and really good deals. It gets people excited, and maybe they’ll try something they hadn’t yet. In October, we did what I called a ‘bronze event’ and made everything bronze. We even had bronze glitter for staff. We really blew up this bronze theme and offered discounted airbrush,” she says says.

“Even if you wanted to just do a free tan day, you blow it up and put it on your website and social media and pass out fliers, just to create some buzz and hopefully get new people through the door. Getting your crew excited and hyped up is going to eventually make the customers excited.”

As far as reaching new clients, additional beauty and wellness services can also open doors that naturally provide a regular stream of new people. Particularly with wellness services, if you get your foot into the right communities that will appreciate the results you provide, word of mouth will help business take off on its own. You already know your tanning customers value their appearance, and that includes taking care of their bodies. Of course, people with common interests tend to congregate together, and when you offer wellness services that benefit athletes or generally active people, word of mouth will tend to spread naturally in those communities. You can also take a proactive approach to becoming known to people that are likely to be interests in what you offer.

“With tanning, I feel like you have that revolving door of people that care about their looks and how they feel. I’m getting people that don’t tan, so it’s all about getting the word out,” Estes says.

“I’ve done collaborations with small gyms and fitness centers. I want those people that are athletic and tying to take care of their bodies. We did a deal with Oregon City Gold Club, so we’ll be in their ads so all their golf members will know about us. We also do ads on the screens in a popular gym in one of the cities we’re in. We definitely want to do more sponsorships because there’s also a huge runner’s community in Oregon.”

Thus continues the virtuous circle. The more clients you gain, the more services they’ll try, the more friends they’ll tell about your business, and the more money you’ll continue to make month after month and year after year.