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By Tom Branna, Editorial Director | February 3, 2014

A novel tanning system from Tropic Spa may make self-tanning a preferred option for an entirely new demographic.

Baby, it’s cold outside…here in the northeastern US, anyway. But icy temperatures, bitter winds and lack of sunlight are no reasons to forego a glowing tan, says John Marmora, CEO of Tropic Spa, Woodstock, Ontario, Canada. His company is about to make a big marketing push for its Home Mist Tanning System, which promises a safe do-it-yourself tan at a fraction of the cost of a traditional tanning salon and without the skin damage caused by UV tanning booths.

“Everyone is aware of the health risks associated with tanning beds,” explained Marmora. “And commercial spray tanners are huge machines that cost thousands of dollars. We thought what if we could create a high quality machine that works in the privacy of the home?”

Sounds simple, but Marmora took a circuitous, sometimes torturous, path to success.

Marmora was in show business before he got into the tanning business. He wrote hundreds of commercial jingles and went on to write and produce pop music. His biggest act was Joée, a Canadian dance musician, who achieved quite a bit of fame in the 1990s. For example, in 1995 his remake of “Died In Your Arms” was No. 1 at radio stations across Canada and made Billboard's Hot 100 Singles chart, making Joée the first Canadian pop star to break into the US charts.

But music industry success is fleeting at best, and when the initial stardom didn't transform into bigger and better things for Joée and Marmora, he found himself with plenty of time on his hands—which turned out to be perfect when a friend in the music industry asked him to help out with a business plan which ultimately led to the formation of Tropic Spa.

The quest to develop an at-home spray tanning system took six years to develop.

“We went through all sorts of prototypes that cost millions of dollars,” recalled Marmora.

The first US patent was earned in 2009 and now five more patents are pending around the world. While the tanning spray itself isn’t patentable, Marmora insists the colorless, odorless, non-sticky formula is unique. It contains DHA, as well as good-for-your-skin ingredients like vitamin E, aloe and lecithin. And since it is bronzer-free, Tropic Spa tanning spray won’t stain anything.

“The biggest fear consumers have with our product is that it will cause a mess,” explained Marmora. “But the spray goes right on your body and 95% of the product ends up on your body.”

The tan takes five to eight hours to develop and will last five to eight days, depending on proper skin care and moisturizing procedures, he added.
Spray It…and Say It!

The Tropic Spa home mist tanning system is designed for indoor use. The unit, which can be easily mounted on a door, holds several unique-shaped cans of tanner. The battery-charged unit emits product every few seconds or so, with time for the user to turn from front to side to back to side to front again.

“In 12 seconds, you’ve tanned yourself,” insisted Marmora.

While he admits the at-home spray tanning process can be a bit daunting at first, Marmora assured Happi that once a user tries Tropic Spa, it becomes a routine that is as easy as shaving.  And that’s good news for the company executive, since he expects men to play a pivotal role in Tropic Spa’s success.

“If you’re 50 years old you’re bound to be a little self-conscious to go to a tanning salon and get naked,” said Marmora. “Men would never be caught dead in a salon.”

But in the privacy of their own home? That’s another story.

“We’re creating a new market of self-tanners with our product,” he insisted.

Still, women are expected to make the bulk of Tropic Spa purchases, with the core audience between 20 and 40 years old.

Each $300 Tropic Spa unit includes enough product for 10 applications, as well as cap, gloves, wipes, instructional DVD and touch-up spray. Users can reorder the tanner via an 800 number or online at Six refill cans cost $100. Do the math and it works out to about $10 a tan—just a third of the cost of the same procedure at a salon, according to Marmora.

With an effective product in place, it was time for effective product placement. In 2012, Tropic Spa began consumer testing with an infomercial in select US markets as well as a small campaign in Canada. The website soon followed and the company hired a marketing firm to get the word out about the tanning system.

“Right now, we are raising capital, and we should have all funding in place by late spring,” explained Marmora.

With money to back the project, Tropic Spa will implement its marketing plan in three or four stages that will encompass heaving infomercial airing, social media and PR, followed by product placement in leading consumer magazines, on talk shows and other outlets, before hitting retail shelves. Ultimately, Marmora hopes Tropic Spa will be available in mass-market merchandisers.

Although he is cautious about releasing estimated sales figures, Marmora is bullish about his company’s prospects. Once the initial four-month marketing push is behind him, the CEO expects that Tropic Spa will sell as many as 40,000 units over the next 18 months.

“They should fly off the shelf,” insisted Marmora. “We can expand to other parts of the world too, since we have the capability to manufacture 750,000 units a year.”

If he’s right, Tropic Spa might just be the next big thing in the self-tanning segment.


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