Selling Sunless Tanning

Baring winter white skin during the first days of spring can be a painful experience! Help your clients-and your bottom line- by preparing them for warmer weather with an array of safe, sunless tanning options. Whether they're looking for a luxurious spa experience or a quick glow, there are products and services you can offer to meet their needs. Here's a look at what's available and how you can sell it.


The Fundamentals

Sunless tanning is a booming business right now, for a number of reasons. "The category has really come into its own," says Beth Byra, vice president of sales and marketing for St. Tropez Tanning Essentials. "In the past couple of years, with awareness of skin cancer and the sun's affect on aging, people don't want to lay out in the sun anymore. It's one of the worst things you can do to the skin, and this is a healthy alternative." In a market of consumers that demand instant gratification, it's also a service that offers results clients can see the minute they walk out of the spa.

Sunless tanning can be broken down into two types of services: the spray-on or the hand-applied. Spray-on, or airbrushed, tans are quick treatments, generally lasting about 15 minutes. Technicians either apply the tan with an airbrush or clients step into an enclosed booth that sprays them head to toe. Price points for the service vary. At Spa Sydell, in Norcross, Georgia, they charge $40 per session for their airbrush tanning system, or clients can buy a package of three sessions for $108. Upscale resort spas using the St. Tropez airbrush system charge around $75 per session, says Byra, though prices vary across the country based on the demographics. Either way, the profit margin is significant: Byra says a spa's cost per treatment is only $4.60, which includes tanning solution and disposable undergarments.

Hand-applied, sunless tanning treatments are longer services, but are also more luxurious and tend to be more of a spa treatment. It typically involves exfoliation, moisturizer and the  self-tanning cream. An additional upside to hand-applied solutions is that the cream tends to give a tan that lasts longer than the spray-on version. The treatment usually lasts 50 to 80 minutes, and spas can charge anywhere from $90 to $175 depending again on the demographics of the area. The cost per treatment using St. Tropez is around $7, according to Byra.

The airbrush tan is becoming increasingly popular at Spa Sydell. Meagan Alcorn-Parrett, the airbrush trainer and an esthetician at Spa Sydell, says about half the book in an eight-hour day is booked with sunless tanning services.  "I'll have maybe two or three facials, then spend the rest of the time doing airbrush services. In four hours, I can fit in eight tanning clients," she says. "It's been very profitable. We haven't seen the ebb and flow that happens with so many popular services."


Marketing Methods

Like selling many other services in the spa, the best way to promote sunless tanning can come down to the getting to know your clients. "It's just talking to clients and knowing what they are up to," says Alcorn-Parrett. "For instance, if I have a waxing client, and she tells me she is going on vacation, I'll talk to her about sunless tanning and its benefits. It's really about communicating with the clients and figuring out what their needs are."

Since airbrush tanning is cheaper and less time-consuming than the hand-applied treatments, it tends to be more popular among the younger generation. Alcorn-Parrett and Spa Sydell take that into consideration when coming up with marketing ideas to bring new clients into the spa. "The most important thing is to partner with other companies catering to the same type of clientele," she says. In that vein, they are exploring partnering up with a high-end beach retailer in their area to provide an introductory tanning offer to shoppers at the store. The spa is also looking to work with a company that provides training for cheerleading competitions.

Retailing is also important with sunless tanning-and it's fairly easy, too. "Spas generally do well with retailing because everyone wants to extend their tan at home," says Byra. "It's definitely a part of the spa recommendation." Alcorn-Parrett says she feels very comfortable  retailing the products to customers. "Consumers know they have so many options for skin care. With tanning, manufacturers make the support products, so I can recommend this for them knowing it definitely won't strip their tan. We can sell more confidently to them, and they respond to that confidence."



Selling Sunless Tanning

Cash in on your tanning services with these revenue-boosting ideas.

>Offer a scrub prior to the tanning service.

Some spas and salons package the exfoliation and tanning together to maximize profits on the service, and offer clients more of a spa feel for their treatment. At Spa Sydell, clients can book a full-body polish, using a sea salt scrub, plus airbrush tanning for $75.

>Sell pre- and post-care products.

Make sure clients know how to extend the life of their tan with the proper home care products. That means selling scrubs for clients to use at home before coming in for their tan (if you don't offer the service, or they choose not to use it) and a moisturizer to use afterwards to keep skin from shedding the color. Typical sunless tans last between four and seven days, but by exfoliating first and using a moisturizer after, the tan can last for up to 10 days. 

>Tag the service onto other services in the spa.

Offer to finish off a facial or massage with a tanning treatment. In a minimal amount of time, you can make extra money, and the client goes home with visible results. You could also upsell the tanning treatment itself-at Spa Sydell, clients wanting a darker tan can add on a tanning boost for $15.

>Give clients a free add-on.

Throw in a bottle of bronzing lotion for touch-ups or add the self-tanner as a freebie when clients have another service in the spa. One salon held a promotion offering a free leg tan with a pedicure during the summer months, using either mousse or the spray, and completed the add-on while the toes were drying-something that is not costly, but makes the customer feel good.



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