Tan for all seasons

The British summer is traditionally patchy at best, an anomalous few days of blazing sunshine, surrounded by weeks of relentless cloud and drizzle. Nonetheless, there comes a point in the year when the clients swap their jumpers for sleeveless tops and their tights for bare legs.

A recent survey from skincare analyst NPD found that May marks the busiest time in the tanning sector’s calendar besides Christmas. The two weeks leading up to the Jubilee bank holiday weekend on June 4 last year accounted for 8.5% of all annual sales of self-tan products and NPD’s figures for 2011 showed a similar trend. It’s not surprising that at this time of year, with summer just around the corner and bikini bodies high on clients’ minds, that tans should be popular, but in such a saturated market how can salons ensure they’re the ones capitalising?

In tough economic times, marketing spend is often the first to be cut in any business, leading to a vicious circle of poor sales figures and further belt tightening. If clients don’t know about your business and what you offer, how can you expect them to come and spend money with you?

Route to market

Fake Bake chief executive Sandra McClumpha points out that opportunities for promoting a business while spending very little money have never been greater, with the number of social media and email marketing tools available. Similarly, France Baudet, managing director at the Cannelle chain of salons in Oxfordshire, says she plans to use her brand’s Facebook and Twitter profiles, along with the blog and newsletter, as much as possible to advertise tanning treatments. Marie Hills, business development manager at tanning brand Sunjunkie, suggests asking regular clients to provide testimonials about the service, and offering an open evening to secure potential new business.

Bikini - Penneys

However, Hills reminds salons to constantly review their marketing campaigns to ensure they are reaching the right people and driving customers to the business. “A fabulous advert is pointless unless you measure the results,” she says. “Every time a new lead contacts you, ask where they heard about your business. This simple measuring tool will prove priceless for future marketing campaigns, as you will know what is working and what isn’t.”

Nev Mehmet, managing director of tanning brand Lauren’s Way, says salons should seek as much support as they can from the brands they stock. “Try to work as a business partnership, rather than as buyers and sellers,” he says.  Natalie Roche, managing director at Xen-Tan's UK distributor Skin Solutions, agrees, pointing out that often, the supplier will do the hard work for you. “I highly recommend speaking to your supplier before increasing your marketing spend,” she says. “One of the most effective marketing strategies that is often forgotten about is to jump on the back of any promotions of gifts your supplier is marketing over the season.”

“In today’s climate it’s vital to keep your investments low while continuously providing services that differentiate you from your competitors,” adds McClumpha. “My advice would be to look at the treatments your salon is currently offering and adapt them. For example, why not add tanning to an existing facial treatment to ensure a client’s skin is glowing.”

She recommends familiarising yourself with the media local to your salon. “For example, special occasions such as Mother’s Day present a publicity opportunity that all salons can capitalise on. Invite journalists into the salons with their mother or daughter for a specific package. This could lead to coverage and free publicity and entice people into your salon,” she says.

Many feel it is unwise to discount services at this time of year, however. “I think it’s a mistake to give a percentage off a treatment that is going to sell well naturally,” says Baudet.

Chilly forecast

Warmer temperatures may lead to an increase in sunless tanning treatments, but when that good weather doesn’t turn up, salons are faced with a challenge. “The tanning season has a notoriously unreliable start date,” says Alison Baker, sales director at sunbed lamp manufacturer UV Logistics. “Our recent bout of snow did not help encourage customers into tanning salons.”

Baudet disagrees, however, saying that she predicts the poor weather will drive up sales of tanning treatments in her salons as people want to look and feel better. “It’s hit and miss really,” adds Mehmet. “The demand for tans has dropped slightly because of the weather, but more people are booking holidays abroad and are getting a tan before jetting off.”

Roche suggests making a mobile therapists available to make home visits for clients not willing to brave the cold and displaying professional photos of tanning work on fully clothed models, to show clients that even though they’re not baring all it’s still worth investing in a tan.

LDN Skins

Baker says that if the sun is not forthcoming, it is important to make sure the salon is warm enough so that customers feel comfortable stripping off for a tan. “Advertising the advantages of acclimatising your skin by using a sunbed before going on holiday is another important marketing factor,” she adds.

Back to beds

Marketing for sunbed treatments is even more crucial, especially in today’s environment of tabloid skin cancer scare stories. “I think the answer is in education,” says Gary Lipman, director of the Sunbed Association. “People have understood the message that responsible tanning is perfectly healthy. It’s burning that causes the skin damage.” 

As part of its aim to ensure good practice throughout the sector, The Sunbed Association issues a code of practice that its members must adhere to, outlining the safe level of UV exposure as 60 sessions a year, never more than three times a week and always leaving 48 hours between sessions. “The regulation offers security to the public. Examples from other countries show that when there is compliance with the regulation, business goes up because people feel secure and confident,” he says.

Baker agrees, saying that educating clients about safe sunbed use can be a very effective marketing tool for salons. She adds that there are many misconceptions surrounding lamps that comply with the EU safety regulations, otherwise known as the 0.3 rule [emitting a maximum output of 0.3 watts per square metre]. “It’s important that business owners and staff understand the safety of 0.3 lamps in order to convince customers. If the client feels that you have knowledge of UV, they will feel more confident in using your equipment and that you are operating safely,” she says.

Lipman believes that beauty therapists are well placed to offer sunbed treatments safely because of their expertise in skin type and skincare. “Healthy skin tans better, so if you look after your skin it’s going to help you tan,” he explains. 

ERGOLINE SUNBED

Trend watch

Of course, a robust marketing strategy means nothing if clients don’t want to buy the services. Roche explains that in order to reach out to new markets, it’s important to offer a treatment they really want. “Spray tanning for men is definitely on the rise,” she says. “Airbrush tanning allows therapists to contour with colour, which appeals to men, and you can charge more as application takes longer.”

Salons hoping to capitalise on the market should be sure that the treatments on offer are up to date with the current trends, which no longer includes the orange façades championed by the reality TV royalty. “The healthy glow is in,” says Baudet.

“Today, we are going for a more natural look,” agrees Julie Barham, brand manager at LDN Skins. “The majority of women want to look well and healthy. I think the whole aspect of tanning has changed.”

McClumpha says that, given the current trends, salons should demonstrate their versatility when it comes to tanning and communicate the variety of results that can be achieved. “The industry has changed over the last few years; tanning is now less about trends and more to do with an individual’s preference of colour,” she says. “Clients now choose tans that suit their preferred look, encompassing skin tones, skin type and lifestyle, as opposed to what is fashionable.”

Roche agrees, saying that despite the catwalk inspired beauty trends, the usual tanning patterns prevail each year. “Clients usually request a deep golden tan around the party season, a transitional tan to take you from winter to spring and a subtle glow around wedding season,” she says. Nontheless, Xen-Tan says its important to demonstrate to clients that you’re aware of what’s fashionable. “Make reference to tanning trends in store,” she suggests. “Display current magazines and pictures to demonstrate an awareness of the latest celebrity and catwalk trends, and recommend the best way to emulate the look.”

Image credits: (From top) Dune; Penneys; LDN Skins; Ergoline