Business ideas
8 min read

How to Start a Profitable Tanning Salon Business [11 Steps]

Learn how to start a profitable tanning salon business with our 11+ step guide. From equipment to marketing, we cover everything you need to know.

By Nick Cotter
Updated Feb 02, 2024

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This page may feature products from our affiliate partners, which could influence the products we discuss due to potential compensation. Despite this, our evaluations are impartial, based solely on our independent analysis. The content here is intended for informational purposes and should not be seen as legal advice. For professional guidance, consulting with a legal expert is recommended.
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1. Perform market analysis.

Before starting a tanning salon business, it's crucial to perform a comprehensive market analysis to understand the current landscape and identify opportunities for growth. This analysis will guide your business strategy and help you make informed decisions. Below are the key steps to take:

  • Research the local demographic to determine the target market's age, income, and lifestyle preferences that align with tanning salon services.
  • Analyze competitors by identifying existing tanning salons in the area, their services, pricing, and market share to assess the level of competition you'll face.
  • Evaluate industry trends by looking at the latest developments in tanning technology, customer preferences, and regulatory changes that may impact the business.
  • Assess the demand for tanning services within your target market, considering factors such as seasonality and the popularity of indoor tanning.
  • Understand the regulatory environment to ensure compliance with health and safety standards, licensing requirements, and any legal restrictions on tanning services.
tanning salon business image

Are Tanning Salon businesses profitable?

Yes, tanning salons can be profitable businesses, depending on the size and location of the salon and the local demand for tanning services. Factors such as competition, cost of supplies, staff costs, and marketing can also affect the profitability of a tanning salon.

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2. Draft a tanning salon business plan.

Creating a thorough business plan is paramount when venturing into the tanning salon industry. It will serve as a roadmap for your business, outlining your vision, goals, and the strategies you'll employ to achieve success. Below are crucial components to include in your tanning salon business plan:

  • Executive Summary: Summarize your business concept, target market, and competitive advantages. Highlight financial projections and funding requirements.
  • Company Description: Provide an in-depth look at your tanning salon, services offered, and how your business fits into the market.
  • Market Analysis: Research the tanning industry, identify your target demographic, and analyze competitor strengths and weaknesses.
  • Organization and Management: Outline your business structure, ownership details, and information about the management team.
  • Services: Detail the tanning services you plan to offer, including equipment and product lines.
  • Marketing Plan: Develop strategies for attracting and retaining customers, branding, and advertising.
  • Operational Plan: Describe the day-to-day operations, location, facilities, equipment, and staff requirements.
  • Financial Plan: Include projected income statements, cash flow statements, and balance sheets for the next three to five years.
  • Appendix: Add any additional documents that support your business plan, such as resumes, permits, and lease agreements.

How does a Tanning Salon business make money?

A tanning salon business typically makes money by charging customers for the use of its tanning beds, booths, and other services. These fees are usually based on the length of time spent tanning, the type of tanning bed used, or the type of service provided. Tanning salons may also offer other services such as spray tans, lotions, makeup, and waxing, which can generate additional revenue.

3. Develop a tanning salon brand.

Developing a brand for your tanning salon is crucial as it sets the tone for customer experience and distinguishes you from competitors. A strong brand resonates with your target audience and communicates the essence of your business. Keep the following points in mind as you craft your brand.

  • Define Your Brand Identity: Choose a name, logo, and color scheme that reflect the luxurious and relaxing experience your salon will provide.
  • Establish Your Unique Selling Proposition (USP): Identify what makes your salon different, such as innovative tanning technology, organic tanning products, or exceptional customer service.
  • Create a Brand Voice: Decide on the tone and language that will characterize your brand communications, ensuring consistency across all platforms.
  • Target Audience: Understand the demographics and preferences of your ideal customers to tailor your brand messaging effectively.
  • Visual Elements: Invest in high-quality visuals that represent your brand well, including interior design of your salon, marketing materials, and online presence.
  • Consistency is Key: Make sure all your branding elements are consistent across every touchpoint with customers, from your storefront to your social media profiles.

How to come up with a name for your Tanning Salon business?

When coming up with a name for your Tanning Salon business, it is important to choose something that will represent the quality and atmosphere of your business. Think of a name that is unique and memorable, yet simple and easy to pronounce. Consider words that are associated with sun, beaches, and relaxation. Finally, make sure the name is available and can be trademarked.

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4. Formalize your business registration.

Starting a tanning salon involves several critical steps, and one of the most important is formalizing your business registration. This legal step will ensure your business complies with all regulations and tax requirements. Here's a guide to help you navigate this phase:

  • Choose a business structure (e.g., sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC, or corporation) that fits your needs and offers the right balance of legal protections and benefits.
  • Register your business name with the appropriate state authority, ensuring it's unique and not already in use.
  • Obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS for tax purposes, which is necessary for hiring employees and opening a business bank account.
  • Apply for the necessary business licenses and permits specific to a tanning salon, which may include a health department permit and a cosmetology establishment license.
  • Check with your local government for any additional requirements, such as a certificate of occupancy or zoning permits, especially if you're planning to renovate a space for your salon.
  • Consider the need for additional registrations, such as state-specific tax registrations for sales tax or unemployment insurance.

Resources to help get you started:

Explore vital resources designed for tanning salon business owners looking for insights on market trends, operational best practices, and strategic business growth:

  • IST Magazine (Indoor Tanning Association): A leading publication for tanning salon professionals offering industry news, marketing strategies, and health information.
  • Smart Tan Network: Provides education, certification, and business services for the indoor tanning industry, including best practices for salon safety and customer care.
  • Tanning Trends Magazine: Offers articles, tips, and latest trends for salon owners to keep their business ahead in the competitive market. No direct link provided due to the variability of availability.
  • The Sun Tan Association (STA): A source for industry reports, legislative updates, and networking opportunities for tanning salon businesses.

5. Acquire necessary licenses and permits for tanning salon.

Opening a tanning salon requires careful attention to regulatory compliance. Before you can welcome your first clients, it's crucial to obtain the appropriate licenses and permits that reflect your commitment to safety and legal operation. Here's what you need to focus on:

  • Business License: Register your tanning salon with the local or state government to obtain a general business license, which is a basic requirement for any commercial operation.
  • Health Department Permits: Because tanning salons involve direct impact on customers' health, you may need a health-related permit from the county health department, ensuring that your establishment meets sanitation and safety standards.
  • Specialized Tanning Permits: Some jurisdictions require a specific tanning facility permit due to the potential risks associated with tanning equipment. Check with your local government to see if this applies to you.
  • Building Permits: If your salon requires construction or significant remodeling, you'll need to obtain the proper building permits before you begin the work.
  • Fire Department Inspection: Safety is paramount, so a fire department inspection may be necessary to ensure your salon complies with fire safety regulations, particularly if you're using high-powered tanning equipment.

What licenses and permits are needed to run a tanning salon business?

To operate a tanning salon business, you will need to obtain a business license from your local government. Additionally, depending on the state, you may also need to obtain a special permit from the state health department or similar agency that regulates salons and tanning facilities.

6. Open a business bank account and secure funding as needed.

After laying the groundwork for your tanning salon, it's time to ensure your financial infrastructure is solid. Opening a dedicated business bank account will help you manage your salon's finances effectively. Additionally, securing the necessary funding is a crucial step to cover startup costs and maintain a cash flow before your business becomes profitable. Follow these guidelines:

  • Choose the right bank: Research banks offering business accounts with low fees and good customer service. Consider if they provide additional services like credit lines or merchant services.
  • Prepare the necessary documents: You will need your business registration details, EIN, ownership agreements, and possibly a business plan when opening your account.
  • Explore funding options: Determine how much funding you need and consider sources such as small business loans, personal savings, investors, or crowdfunding.
  • Develop a solid business plan: A well-crafted business plan can be instrumental in securing loans or investments as it shows the viability of your business.
  • Understand the terms: Whether it's a loan or investment, make sure you fully understand the terms, including interest rates, repayment schedules, and any potential equity you're giving up.

7. Set pricing for tanning salon services.

Setting the right pricing strategy for your tanning salon services is crucial to attract customers while ensuring profitability. It's essential to consider market rates, your costs, and the perceived value of your offerings. Here are some guidelines to help you set competitive and fair prices:

  • Research Competitors: Look at the pricing of similar tanning salons in your area to get a benchmark for your own prices. Aim to stay competitive without undercutting your service value.
  • Cost-Plus Pricing: Calculate the total cost of providing each service, including equipment, products, labor, and overhead. Add a markup percentage to ensure a profit.
  • Value-Based Pricing: Consider the perceived value of your services to customers, such as the quality of your tanning beds, location, and customer service, and price accordingly.
  • Tiered Pricing: Offer multiple tiers of service, such as basic, premium, and luxury tanning experiences, to cater to different customer preferences and budgets.
  • Membership or Package Deals: Encourage repeat business by offering memberships or package deals at a discounted rate.
  • Seasonal Adjustments: Consider adjusting prices or offering promotions during peak and off-peak seasons to maximize revenue year-round.

What does it cost to start a Tanning Salon business?

Initiating a tanning salon business can involve substantial financial commitment, the scale of which is significantly influenced by factors such as geographical location, market dynamics, and operational expenses, among others. Nonetheless, our extensive research and hands-on experience have revealed an estimated starting cost of approximately $37500 for launching such an business. Please note, not all of these costs may be necessary to start up your tanning salon business.

8. Acquire tanning salon equipment and supplies.

Starting a tanning salon requires careful selection of equipment and supplies to ensure safety, comfort, and the best possible experience for your clients. From state-of-the-art tanning beds to skin care products, each item plays a vital role in the operation of your salon. Here are some essential equipment and supplies to consider:

  • Tanning Beds: Invest in a variety of high-quality commercial tanning beds, including both lie-down and stand-up models.
  • UV-Free Tanning Options: Offer sunless tanning solutions like spray tan booths or handheld spray tan equipment for clients who prefer UV-free options.
  • Safety Gear: Stock up on protective eyewear for clients to prevent UV exposure to the eyes during tanning sessions.
  • Sanitizing Products: Ensure a hygienic environment with hospital-grade disinfectant cleaners for tanning equipment and surfaces.
  • Skincare Products: Provide a range of tanning lotions, bronzers, and skin moisturizers for before and after tanning care.
  • Reception and Waiting Area Furniture: Create a welcoming environment with comfortable seating and attractive decor.
  • Point of Sale System: Choose a reliable POS system to manage sales, appointments, and client memberships efficiently.
  • Marketing Materials: Invest in promotional items like brochures, business cards, and signage to attract and retain customers.

List of Software, Tools and Supplies Needed to Start a Tanning Salon Business:

  • Tanning beds
  • Supplies for sanitization and cleaning
  • Protective eyewear
  • Tanning lotions, creams and sprays
  • Furniture for customers
  • Point of sale system
  • Accounting software
  • Business plan
  • Website design software
  • Customer relationship management software
  • Advertising materials
  • Marketing materials

9. Obtain business insurance for tanning salon, if required.

Securing the right insurance for your tanning salon is crucial to protect your business from potential risks and liabilities. Different types of insurance will cover various aspects of your business, from property damage to customer lawsuits. Here are some key steps to consider when obtaining business insurance:

  • Research the types of insurance: Common policies for tanning salons include general liability, professional liability, property insurance, and workers' compensation. Understand what each policy covers and what is required in your area.
  • Consult with insurance professionals: Speak with insurance agents who specialize in small businesses or specifically in the beauty and wellness industry. They can provide personalized advice and help you navigate the options.
  • Compare quotes: Get quotes from multiple insurance providers to compare coverage options and costs. Look for comprehensive coverage at a competitive price.
  • Consider bundling policies: You may save money by bundling different types of insurance with the same provider through a Business Owner's Policy (BOP).
  • Review and update regularly: As your business grows and changes, so will your insurance needs. Review your policies annually or after any significant changes to your business.

10. Begin marketing your tanning salon services.

Now that your tanning salon is set up and ready to welcome clients, it's time to spread the word and attract customers. A well-thought-out marketing strategy will help you establish your brand, create awareness, and differentiate your salon in a competitive market. Here are some key steps to effectively market your tanning salon services:

  • Develop a strong brand identity: Create a memorable logo, choose a color scheme, and develop a voice that resonates with your target audience.
  • Launch a user-friendly website: Ensure your website is visually appealing, mobile-responsive, and provides all essential information such as services, pricing, location, and booking options.
  • Utilize social media: Engage with potential clients on platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Share before-and-after photos, promotions, and tanning tips to build a community.
  • Offer opening promotions: Attract initial customers with discounts, package deals, or a referral program to encourage word-of-mouth marketing.
  • Partner with local businesses: Collaborate with gyms, spas, and beauty salons to cross-promote services and tap into their customer base.
  • Invest in online advertising: Use Google Ads and social media advertising to target local customers searching for tanning services.
  • Collect reviews and testimonials: Encourage satisfied clients to leave positive reviews online, which can be powerful endorsements to prospective customers.

What licenses and permits are needed to run a tanning salon business?

  • Tanning beds
  • Supplies for sanitization and cleaning
  • Protective eyewear
  • Tanning lotions, creams and sprays
  • Furniture for customers
  • Point of sale system
  • Accounting software
  • Business plan
  • Website design software
  • Customer relationship management software
  • Advertising materials
  • Marketing materials

11. Expand your tanning salon business.

Expanding your tanning salon business requires strategic planning and a focus on customer satisfaction. By diversifying your services and leveraging marketing techniques, you can attract a larger clientele and grow your brand. Here are some key strategies to consider:

  • Invest in New Technology: Keep your salon competitive by offering the latest tanning equipment and skin care technology, such as spray tan booths or red light therapy.
  • Introduce Additional Services: Complement tanning with other beauty and wellness services like massages, facials, or a nail bar to become a one-stop beauty destination.
  • Enhance Customer Experience: Implement a loyalty program, offer package deals, and create a comfortable and inviting atmosphere to encourage repeat visits.
  • Expand Online Presence: Use social media and online marketing to reach a wider audience. A well-maintained website and active social media profiles can attract new customers.
  • Open Additional Locations: If your current salon is thriving, consider opening new salons in different areas to tap into new markets.
  • Form Partnerships: Collaborate with local businesses, gyms, and spas to offer cross-promotions that can benefit all parties involved.
  • Analyze Market Trends: Stay informed about industry trends and customer preferences to offer services that meet the changing demands of the market.