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Pros and Cons of Owning a Tanning Salon Business

Tanning Salon Business

Do you want to start a tanning salon and you are wondering it if is worth the risk? If YES, here are pros and cons of owning a tanning salon.

Tanning salons have indeed become an industry trend with people always wanting to look bronzed all year long. With the invention of the tanning bed, the industry really took off on a great start. The tanning industry is becoming more focused on providing customers with an experience than focusing on simply providing a service.

In addition to using the latest Tanning beds with the best technology, salons need to offer more customized experiences to customers. This usually involves everything from providing different skin care choices, a selection of light options tailored to the customer, and even different music selections.

When salons can give customers a positive experience, they are more likely to see the brand in a positive light and return again for future tanning sessions. Also, they can even recommend family and friends to the business, thus helping it grow.

Tanning salons mostly target adult women (18-60) who value their appearance and who have enough disposable income to afford tanning services.

College students and, on occasion, high school students may also be part of the target market, depending on state regulations if they allow this age bracket to legally use the equipment. Before you open a tanning salon, you would want to have an explicit knowledge of what you are entering into.

You need to question everything so you can find loopholes your business can cover and also build a niche in. For this reason, we would attempt to bring out the pros and cons of a tanning salon and if it is a viable business for you to go into.

Pros of Owning a Tanning Salon Business

1. You can get your equipment secondhand

One good thing about the tanning salon business is that you can get your equipment for way less. This is one good alternative to buying your sunbeds new.

You will need to decide how you want to finance things from now on. Reconditioned beds are a good option and if they come from a reputable supplier, can be nearly as good as new. This option will cost you less than half the price of a new bed, and, although there will be no lengthy guarantee, you can ask for three months parts and labour.

If money is tight after your initial purchase, then renting or lease-purchase are both options. Lease-Purchase is similar to renting, but charges a higher weekly rental figure (around 50% more). The upside is that you would own the sunbed after around two years.

With profit-share, an external supplier owns, installs, maintains, and re-tubes the sunbed, and after an installation fee, will take 50% of the bed’s takings each month. This is a good low risk option for the early days of your business, as it is only worth the investment in quieter periods. But if your salon gets busy, you will be paying half of your hefty profits to the supplier.

2. You Have Flexible Work Hours

If you want a job with flexible hours, then you should definitely benefit from running your own tanning business. The only time you will need to work is when someone is in need of your services. After you have served all of your clients for the day, you can spend the rest of your time relaxing, brushing up on your tanning skills and looking for new clients.

3. You get to be your own boss

When you start your own business (salon or mobile spray tanning) you will be your own boss, that is guaranteed. You will determine the direction your business will be going, along with working hours and business strategies. At first, this might sound a little discouraging but in time, you will get used to it.

However, with this great flexibility also comes added responsibility. As your own boss, you are in charge of every business decision. You can choose how many days per week you want to work, which hours you want to work, the distance you are willing to travel to offer your service, the strategy for accruing new customers, etc.

This flexibility also makes this business style feasible for the majority of people, no matter their lifestyle. Plan work around a family, around school, or even another job while still being able to maintain a successful business.

4. Faithful Clientele

As your business gains popularity, more and more people will call for your services. The more people you know, to more opportunities you might come across to broaden your horizons. Not to mention, you will probably make new friends too.

Cons of Owning a Tanning Salon Business

a. It is expensive

The tanning salon business is expensive to start. It is not suitable for a home business or for a part-time endeavor. A tanning business requires significant capital outlay –­ from the purchase of the tanning beds, space rental, overhead and operating costs, to staff compensation.

Expenses for operating a tanning business can reach about $115,000 in a year, or even more. The cost of tanning beds alone range from $750 to over $10,000, depending on specifications.

You would want start with a good quality tanning bed to avoid any legal entanglements in the event that an unfortunate mishap occurs with one of your clients. Be prepared for the rental fees or leasing cost of your tanning salon. You need adequate space for your tanning beds, plus ample parking space for your customers.

More often than not, you will need to rent space from a strip mall or some other commercial area. For rental expenses alone, you can expect to shell out between $7,000 to $35,000 in a year, depending on your location.

Operating expenses of a tanning salon business is also fairly high, given the costs of electricity, light bulbs of your tanning beds, lotion costs and other peripheral expenses. Another big expense is your payroll. A tanning business cannot be operated by a one-person team.

You need to at least have a receptionist/secretary, and an experienced tanning bed operator/s. Common startup costs you have to note

  • Tanning beds
  • Spray tanning machines
  • Renovations so that the building can support the electrical use of equipment
  • Waiting room and changing room furniture and decor
  • Supplies like towels, lotions, and eye protection
  • Signage

b. Location and lease costs

Locating a tanning salon in a premium, high-traffic space can be expensive, however it may be worth the additional cost in terms of the walk-in traffic and overall business awareness the location offers.

A good tanning salon would ideally be located close to complementary businesses, such as a fitness facility (that doesn’t offer tanning), nail salon or spa and offer close and ample parking. Malls and other busy shopping areas also typically make for a good location.

Lease costs will vary according to a property’s size, location, and any modifications that need to be made. Renovating an existing commercial space to accommodate a tanning salon can be very expensive, since electrical wiring will need to be altered to power tanning beds and you also need a very powerful HVAC system.

c. Issues with finding funding

Coming up with a good business idea and having the skills to run it are one thing, but getting the funding to start a tanning salon is another.

Funding to start a tanning salon can be difficult due to the cost of equipment and building renovations. In order to get a loan, the borrower(s) will need to have good credit and be able invest 15-25% of their money towards the total start-up costs.

d. Negative publicity

Tanning beds have picked up some negative publicity after research found out that the beds can increase people’s chances of getting skin cancer. This alone can reduce the number of patrons your business welcomes in any given business day.

e. The business is seasonal

People generally cover up during the cold season and as such not many people are bothered about their complexion. This goes to show that a tanning salon business is seasonal.

This generally means that you will not be earning income in certain times of the year. This alone can draw a good business backward. If you want to avoid this glitch, you should endeavor to develop a similar or complementary business that can keep you stable while wait out the cold.

f. You must love cleaning

This would be an asset if you are planning to buy a tanning salon. After each tanning session, the acrylic on the sunbeds must be cleaned with disinfectant wipes.

The exterior of the bed needs cleaning on a regular basis too, and at least once a month you should do a more thorough cleaning of the acrylics. Annually, you will need to remove the acrylics from the tanning bed and clean the tanning lamps and reflectors.

Your whole salon will need to look spotless to reassure your customers that you are running a reputable business. Sunbeds get hot, so you will also need to provide adequate air vents in each room – and, yes, these will need regular cleaning too.


There are about 30,000 registered and licensed spray tanning/tanning salons in the United States, making creativity with your business model essential if you want to stand out from the competition.

The specialization that a mobile service offers will attract a niche market who either don’t have the time or the desire to take frequent trips to the salon to keep their perfect glow.

Targeting this segment with your unique service in an already developed spray tan market will make gaining a loyal following easier, delivering consistent revenue for your growing business.