We Are Sunshine

Next-Gen Tanners: Appealing to the customer base of the future

Friday, June 7th, 2024

While it’s evident that well-equipped operators can experience unprecedented success in today’s tanning market, a lingering concern for the industry’s long-term future is the possibility that there’s not enough interest in tanning from younger consumers to sustain our businesses the way Gen-Xers and Millennials have.

Currently, most salons aren’t overly concerned about the scope of their 18-24-year-old segment of tanners. In many cases, that demographic makes up a small percentage of a salon’s customer base and has for many years. More than half of Smart Tan survey respondents said that age range accounts for only around 10 percent of their customers. Beyond that, it stands to reason that these young adults tend to have less disposable income than older consumers and thus are spending less on tanning and products, so their current financial contribution is even less significant.

The primary concern lies not in generating additional revenue from existing or future young adult customers. Instead, the crux of the matter revolves around whether a sufficient number of individuals from this generation will engage with the tanning market in the future, thereby ensuring the sustainability of our businesses over the next 10, 20, and even 30-plus years. As these young consumers mature both in age and financial capacity, their patronage will become far less dispensable.

Sixty percent of survey respondents say that 35-44 is currently the largest age segment of their customer base. These are people that grew up in the “golden era” of tanning, in the late ’90 and early 2000s when everybody wanted to be tan, and they wanted their tans to be dark. Current 18–24-year-olds, even 18-30-year-olds, grew up in a different era. Anti-tanning messages were driven into their heads from a young age, and the government and media’s hard push against tanning eventually took not just indoor tanning but having a dark tan out of style to a degree.

Our businesses have evolved with the times alongside consumer preferences and habits. Today’s consumers are interested in more than a tan, and they understand that there can be too much of a good thing. Salons understand that as well and do better than ever at preaching moderation and smart tanning practices, while also offering tanning equipment and other services that provide results and benefits that are about more than the tan.

Over the past 10-plus years, the trend of less young adults tanning has been clear. But, just recently, there are signs of a significant shift in perspectives and habits. Media reports from major mainstream outlets indicate that being tan is currently experiencing renewed popularity among young people.

The social media era also has instilled a new level of vanity in society, which, for better or worse, is good for our businesses. And that sentiment goes beyond the physical effects of a tan. Today’s young people are also seeking social media-worthy experiences. Tanning used to be “cool” because everybody did it. Now, when tanning is cool, it’s because it’s done in chic, spa-like environments with futuristic equipment. While it’s true that many young people can’t afford the experience that many salons provide today, far more of them will be able to as they mature. And, if we know anything about this generation, it’s that they’re going to want to seek experiences that are seen as high-end and exclusive so they can show off what they’re doing to all their friends and followers.

That element certainly bodes well for the long-term prospects of tanning businesses.

Click here to read the entire article in the latest issue of Smart Tan Magazine online.