October 6, 2023

How to Set Up a Successful Tanning Salon

How to Set Up a Successful Tanning Salon

The UK is known for cloudy skies and disappointing summers, so it’s no surprise that tanning salons are enduringly popular. The self-tan market was valued at £60 million in 2014, but it is thought to be worth around £1 billion today.

There are between 3,000 and 5,000 tanning salons in the UK alone, so the appetite for tanning is clearly very strong. The key to success in this sector is to know your customers, as this will enable you to stay ahead of the curve and offer the products and services they want the most.

If you’re thinking about opening your own tanning salon and want the recipe for success, you’re going to need to follow these steps…

Market Research and Planning

Market Research and Planning

You need to know your target demographics inside out if you want to be able to position your tanning salon in the best possible way. Once you know who your customers are and how they currently access tanning services, you’ll be able to position your salon to be their ideal solution.

Market research should also include location research to enable you to position your salon in a place that is convenient enough for your customers, but not so expensive that you struggle to stay afloat in your first year of trading.

You should also understand your competitors. Visit their tanning salons and get to know their products and services. Listen to how they speak to their customers, what they are doing well, and where they are letting their customers down. You should also look at their online reviews, as this will often reveal where they are falling short.

And finally, your market research should also include research into the legal side of setting up a tanning salon. You will have a legal obligation to make sure your salon offers safe services and you’ll need to protect your customers from harm. Learn what permits, qualifications and insurance you will need to be able to operate your tanning salon safely.

Business Plan Development

Business Plan Development

A business plan is often used to attract investors, but you can also use your business plan to organise your thoughts and make sure you have a viable business idea.

A comprehensive business plan should include the following key components:

  • Executive Summary – A concise overview of your business, its mission, and the main points of your business plan.
  • Business Description – Detailed information about your business, including its name, location, legal structure, and history (if applicable).
  • Market Analysis – Research your target market, including size, demographics, and trends.
  • Marketing and Sales Strategy – Your plan for promoting and selling your products or services.
  • Organization and Management – Details about your team, including their roles and qualifications.
  • Product or Service Line – Detailed descriptions of your products or services.
  • Funding Request – If you're seeking financing, specify the amount you need and how you'll use it.
  • Financial Projections – Projected income statements, balance sheets, and cash flow statements.
  • Operational Plan – Information about day-to-day operations, including production, distribution, and logistics.
  • SWOT Analysis – An evaluation of your business's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
  • Risk Assessment – Identification of potential risks and a plan for managing them.

A well-structured business plan serves as a roadmap for your business's future and is an essential tool for attracting investors, securing loans, and guiding your business's growth and development.

If you find yourself going off track in your business and losing focus, you can return to this document to focus your intentions and remind yourself of why you got started. And if you do decide to franchise your business or seek investment in the future, you’ll already be one step ahead of the curve with your business plan.

Tanning Equipment and Products

Tanning Equipment and Products

You’ll need to invest in equipment to get your tanning salon up and running. Many salons rent their equipment to reduce their upfront costs but bear in mind that this will eat into your operating profits.

Research the types of tanning beds and booths available and see which ones are the most popular at the moment. There has been an increased interest in tanning safety in recent years, so tanning beds with skin analysis included are becoming more popular. These allow the user to tailor their sun exposure to their skin type to make it safer.

There has also been an increased interest in sunless tanning such as spray tanning. This can be automated in a booth, or it can be carried out with an airbrush gun by a trained technician. Adding sunless tanning to your range of services is an excellent way to expand your reach and access a whole new target market.

You will also need to consider maintenance schedules for your tanning beds and booths. Consider the lifetime cost of renting over purchasing. You could also purchase second-hand tanning beds from business closure sales, but these might require additional maintenance. You’ll also need measures in place to ensure your tanning beds are functioning safely.

Salon Interior Design

Salon Interior Design

Once you have chosen a location and know how many tanning beds and booths you will have, you can start to think about your salon layout. Working with a professional interior designer can help you maximise the space available to you and make it as functional as possible.

Your salon interior design should feel intentional and tie into your wider branding. Thinking about your interiors in terms of social media shares will also help to boost your online marketing. 

For example, it’s becoming more common for salons to include a “selfie wall”, which is a decorative wall that provides a backdrop for individuals to take a picture and share it online. They will often tag the salon, and then this helps to spread the word. Popular selfie walls often include fake flowers and a neon sign with a cheeky message.

You should also give careful consideration to the lighting choices. Remember that customers are visiting your salon for aesthetic reasons, so they will want to see flattering lighting. Choose lighting that will flatter all skin tones so that your customers feel more confident and at ease in their skin. 

In addition to the private treatment areas, you’ll also need a waiting area that is inviting and encourages individuals to spend more. Your retail offering could include things like self-tanning moisturiser, exfoliating products and bronzing makeup that will enhance the tanning experience. Remember that your target audience will also include men, so products should be unisex or offer something for all customers.

Staffing and Training

Staffing and Training

One of the perks of running a tanning salon over other types of salons is the low staffing requirements. If you have tanning beds and booths instead of spray tanning, you can have minimal staff on hand throughout the day. Some tanning salons even use this to their advantage by offering longer opening hours.

You’ll need to hire qualified, engaging and safety-conscious staff to be the face of your business. Not only do they need to be passionate and knowledgeable about the product, they also need to be confident salespeople. You don’t have to find workers who already have these skills, you can simply find bright and promising individuals who are receptive to training.

By setting employee policies for what is and isn’t acceptable, you can have greater control over standards in your salon. This will enable you to determine the company culture, rather than leaving things to chance. Alongside policies and procedures for staff to follow, you should also think about what steps you will take if there are complaints or if something goes wrong. Deciding these before they happen will enable you to act with confidence if something does go wrong.

Marketing and Promotion

Marketing and Promotion

Marketing your tanning salon will be an ongoing task that requires creativity and an investment of time. Decide who will be responsible for the marketing strategy and activities in your company. If you don’t have the skills in-house, consider outsourcing to an agency or a freelancer.

Many salon management tools will include marketing tools to help you get started. This could include things like text message marketing to reach out to existing customers to remind them of their appointments or to drum up interest in booking another appointment. However, this type of marketing relies on having existing customers to market your services to.

Alongside a marketing strategy to speak to existing customers, you also need to be generating interest in your services. One of the most cost-effective ways to achieve this is with social media marketing. With a small marketing budget, you can reach a wide range of people in your target area.

Your marketing strategy could also include loyalty programmes and initial opening promotions to help get customers through the door. As a new business, you need to earn their trust, and offering discounts on your services is a great way to do this. A loyalty scheme would reward customers for their repeat custom, or you could offer a referral scheme that encourages them to share your offers with their friends. 

And finally, you could also think about collaborations and partnerships. This could mean working with influencers to spread the word about your new tanning salon. You could also partner with local businesses to drum up some interest from your community. For example, you could offer a launch event that includes a pop-up stall from a local cafe or bar.

Health and Safety

Health and Safety

Safety will be one of the biggest considerations for setting up and running a tanning salon. A big part of the tanning business is all about educating individuals on responsible tanning. Your website, social media accounts, marketing materials and staff should all be on the same page about responsible tanning.

You’ll need to stay up to date with the latest regulations to make sure you are offering the safest possible experience for your customers. You can also educate them on alternative methods for topping up their tan, such as sunless tanning products. Encouraging them to use a combination of both will increase your sales and keep your customers safe and happy.

You’ll also need procedures in place for managing emergencies and injuries in your salon. If something goes wrong, you need to act quickly and with confidence to help protect your customers – and your reputation. Staff should have regular training to handle emergencies and to spot the signs that a customer is using tanning tools unsafely. They should also have the confidence and authority to intervene to help keep everyone safe.

Financial Management

Financial Management

You can be passionate about tanning, have a way with customers and a gift for sales, but none of this will mean anything if you can’t keep track of your finances. Financial planning is an essential part of running a successful salon. Budgeting and keeping track of your finances will help you to run projects, find opportunities for growth, and maximise your profits.

Salon management software will help you to keep track of your finances to a certain extent, but it is helpful to work with an accountant to oversee your finances. This will not only help when it comes to paying your employees and paying your taxes, but it can also help you to spot cost-saving measures. Someone with an outsider’s perspective will be able to see the numbers alone, which can tell a very different story than someone involved in the day-to-day running of a business.

Another part of the financial tracking and planning will include setting your prices and determining how much you need to charge to be able to make a profit. Your prices might be seasonal, with a spike in prices during peak periods. You could also offer promotions and loyalty prices to returning customers.

The final part of your financial management that you will need to consider is inventory management and supplier relationships. You should have a comprehensive stock tracking system in place to make sure you always have sufficient levels of your best-sellers. You also want to avoid being left with excess stock that could expire. Good stock management will help you to maximise profits and minimise losses.

Customer Experience

Customer Experience

If you want to run a successful salon, you need to find a way to keep new customers coming through the doors while also achieving a steady stream of repeat custom. Customer experience will be key to achieving these goals.

Tanning salons are a service-based industry, and customers will expect a particular level of customer service. Good customer experience should run through everything you do. It should be a key part of your staff training programme so that everyone on your team knows the level of service expected of them.

Customer service in the tanning industry is also a key part of your safety provisions. Making sure that customers know they can ask questions and get honest and sensible responses – that aren’t driven by sales – will be essential to gaining their trust.

Your customer service provisions could include creating personalised tanning plans for your customers. This will take into consideration their base skin tone, their goals, and the level of maintenance required. For someone hoping to achieve a golden base tan before their wedding day, this would be hugely popular.

Another key part of the customer service provision is collecting and listening to feedback. Customer reviews will not only help you to attract new customers by increasing trust in your services. It will also help you to improve your services by enabling customers to give you feedback. You should have a system in place for collecting reviews, responding to reviews, and then actioning changes in response to reviews. You don’t have to change everything just because one customer has some negative feedback. But if a customer raises a legitimate complaint that could be addressed with a simple policy or procedure change, you’ll increase trust if you take action on these suggestions.

Legal and Regulatory Compliance

Legal and Regulatory Compliance

In order to be successful in business, you need to follow the rules. You don’t need a licence to run a tanning salon in the UK, but it can help your business to secure one. This licence costs £175 and will last for one year. You’ll need to renew this every year. It can be revoked if you are found to be allowing under 18s to use your facilities.

You and your employees will have to make sure you are challenging anyone who looks under the age of 21 to confirm they are over 18. Staff will need to be trained to know when to ask for ID and how to identify an authentic ID. 

In addition to these regulatory considerations, you’ll also need health and safety procedures in place. This could include:

  • Operator Training – Train your staff to operate tanning equipment safely. Certification programs may be available through industry organisations. Operators should understand the equipment's settings, timers, and emergency shutdown procedures.
  • Customer Screening – Before tanning, require customers to fill out a detailed questionnaire that includes questions about their skin type, medical history, and medications. This information can help identify potential contraindications and minimise risks.
  • Skin Type Assessment – Perform a skin type assessment for each customer to determine their sensitivity to UV radiation. Adjust the tanning session duration and intensity based on this assessment to prevent overexposure.
  • Eye Protection – Mandate the use of appropriate eye protection, such as goggles or disposable eye protection, for all customers during tanning sessions. Ensure that customers understand the importance of wearing eye protection.
  • Session Limits – Implement strict session limits to prevent overexposure. Adhere to manufacturer recommendations for maximum exposure times and frequency of sessions based on the type of equipment used.
  • Sanitization – Maintain a rigorous cleaning and sanitization schedule for tanning beds and booths. Ensure that all surfaces, including handles, goggles, and contact points, are regularly disinfected to prevent the spread of germs.
  • Ventilation – Ensure proper ventilation in the tanning area to minimise the buildup of heat and maintain a comfortable environment for customers. Adequate ventilation can also help dissipate fumes from cleaning products.
  • Emergency Procedures – Develop and communicate emergency procedures in case of equipment malfunction, fire, or other emergencies. Staff should be trained on how to handle these situations and how to safely evacuate customers.
  • First Aid – Have a well-equipped first aid kit readily available in case of minor injuries, such as burns or cuts.
  • Record Keeping – Maintain detailed records of customer sessions, skin type assessments, and any adverse reactions. This documentation can be valuable for customer safety and compliance purposes.
  • Regular Inspections – Conduct routine inspections of tanning equipment to ensure it is in proper working order. Schedule regular maintenance and calibration as recommended by the equipment manufacturer.

Expansion and Future Growth

Expansion and Future Growth

If your goal is to be as successful as possible, you may have your sights set on expansion and growth. This could mean opening an additional site to meet demand, or it could mean franchising your business to achieve even greater growth.

Before you can scale your business, you need to be able to assess its performance, identify what is working well, and identify areas where you could improve. This continual process of assessment and growth will enable you to keep pushing the business forward. 

You’ll also need a strategy for staying ahead of the trends and new product innovations. Customers will want to know that you are staying ahead of the curve and offering them something that they can’t get anywhere else. If you fall behind with the trends, your customers might abandon you for a company that prioritises innovation.


There is huge potential in the tanning sector to create a successful business if you are a diligent business owner. It takes more than just passion for tanning to succeed. You’ll need to be willing to follow the rules to make sure your tanning business is offering a responsible service. You will also need to keep a close eye on the finances to identify potential areas for savings and for growth. And finally, you’ll need to make sure that the customer experience is at the heart of everything you do.

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