Industry leaders predict a banner year for indoor tanning in 2021
Despite being asked in the midst of a global pandemic, 60 percent of industry members that responded to a Smart Tan poll in July and August said they feel more confident about the future of their tanning business than they did five years ago. While they’re probably left with a few more gray hairs on their heads, the vast majority of tanning businesses made it past mandated closures with their businesses intact and received a huge confidence boost when they opened their doors and welcomed back hordes of eager clients.
But, when you look at the big picture, successful “grand re-openings” are far from the only reason that the future of the indoor tanning industry is still looking incredibly bright. For
several years now, the industry has been trending in the right direction. Though the COVID-19 crisis crushed the indoor tanning busy season, there are several reasons why salons are better positioned than other retail operators to thrive as we continue to deal with the pandemic and its economic fallout. And, as you’ll see, there may be a silver lining in all of this.
While many industries will likely suffer from economic conditions that limit consumer spending, the past suggests that won’t be the case for indoor tanning. Smart Tan has reported
since the early 1990s about how the indoor tanning industry is recession-proof. The “Lipstick Index” is a term used by the cosmetics industry that describes the increase in cosmetic sales during a recession. When large expenditures are put on hold during a recession, women spoil themselves in smaller ways, including indoor tanning. We have found this to be true for our market since the 1980s. According to Smart Tan CEO Matt Russell, “Though we’re not currently facing an economic recession, consumers are experiencing similar restrictions and limitations. What we’re experiencing is more of a social recession, and the results are the same as what we’ve seen over four decades – indoor tanning is recession-proof.”
More Good News
One of the factors that industry leaders point to in explaining tanning’s resurgence over the last several years is improved perception of the health impacts of UV light. And now, since COVID-19 first struck, there has been an explosion of new positive information like we’ve never seen before. Even though it’s difficult to discuss the health benefits of UV light with our customers, they’re definitely hearing it, and it’s definitely good news for our businesses. Smart Tan CEO Matt Russell says that never in his 40-plus years in the industry has he seen so much of the world’s attention on vitamin D, and more importantly, on sunlight. RCT’s (Random Controlled Trials – the gold standard in science) are being considered in several countries to determine whether sunlight mitigates COVID-19, as many believe vitamin D blood levels are just a marker for adequate sunlight exposure.
Even more important than current reports on the benefits of sunshine and Vitamin D will be the ongoing news as all of this unfolds over the next several years. If results are what we expect them to be, the seasonal reporting during the flu season could include recommendations for increasing vitamin D blood levels and/or UV exposure.
Along with the upward trajectory of the industry prior to the pandemic and the factors that insulate indoor tanning in a recession, there are additional factors that might make 2021 even better for tanning businesses than it would have been had COVID-19 never reared its ugly head. Similarly to when clients rushed back and spent freely when salons reopened, many of the dollars we lost last spring are likely to come back around next year. With so many events, vacations, and weekend plans canceled this year, we can expect more reasons to tan than ever to be on the calendar in Spring 2021. While sales and revenue have been stronger than expected in many salons since reopening, it’s largely because loyal customers have returned and they’re spending more than normal. Many more customers are still yet to return, and as the general population continues to get more comfortable with the situation, customer counts should continue to increase. And, beyond all these other circumstantial dynamics, the fact remains that people love the way tanning makes them look and feel. That’s something that’s never going to change.