Sugared + Bronzed is primed for expansion.
The sunless tanning and sugaring hair removal studio, which currently operates 23 locations, is on track to open 10 to 12 new outposts in 2024 and 10 to 15 in 2025.
Sugared + Bronzed is one such example of service studios that are quickly expanding, as customers are willing to spend on beauty and wellness experiences even in the face of economic downtown, according to experts. Fast facial bar Glowbar, which closed a $10 million series A in 2023, was on track to close the year with 10 locations and double that number in 2024. Social wellness spots, like Othership, Bathhouse and Remedy Place, are quickly growing as well with new outposts in New York City and beyond.
Sugared + Bronzed opened in 2010 with its original Santa Monica, Calif., location. According to founder and president Courtney Claghorn, this location is a testament of the business’ continued progress as the Santa Monica studio alone experienced 20 percent year-over-year growth in 2023. Now, it operates in several key markets, including New York and Texas. Main Post Partners invested in the business in 2019, as reported by WWD, though the amount was not disclosed.
According to Claghorn, the team plans to sign 12 leases a year for the foreseeable future, adding one new market and several adjacent markets each time.
“We’re targeting what we call a ‘flagplant’ new market, a market that’s really far from anywhere else that we are opening that’s not necessarily driving distance and then one adjacent market,” she said.
For example, San Diego is likely an upcoming adjacent market, as the brand operates in Orange County and Los Angeles. As far as the new “flagplant” location this year, Claghorn is focused on Miami. Locations for 2025 have not been determined, though the team is eyeing Atlanta, D.C. and Chicago.
Similar to other service studios like Glowbar and Ever/Body, Sugared + Bronzed has experienced particular success in Manhattan and Brooklyn with sales increasing 31 percent year-over-year in the market alone. Three new Manhattan locations are set to open by March, as well.
“We’ll keep opening there. In every neighborhood that you could probably think of that isn’t too too close to another neighborhood, we’ll be there at some point,” Claghorn said.
As for what’s driving the brand’s growth, aside from the ever-growing interest in beauty and wellness services, Claghorn points to referrals.
“There’s definitely something about people coming in and telling their friends,” she said. “That has been there from Day One back in 2010. That has just remained a constant in terms of growth.”
There’s a few factors likely leading to these ongoing referrals, according to Claghorn. Better-for-you beauty has been a key driver for the business, as Sugared + Bronzed offers all-natural sugaring hair removal and sunless tanning. Customers are increasingly interested in sun protection, leading to the success of SPF and sunless tanning products.
The sugaring paste itself is also a key differentiator.
“We use something called a liquid invert technique, and it allows us to, even though the ingredients of Sugar Paste are just sugar, lemon and water, it allows us to take the sugar and separate it into glucose and fructose,” Claghorn said, adding it allows for a more consistent and less painful experience.
Although the innovative paste and current beauty trends lend themselves to the overall experience that guests are recommending to their friends, it’s the service providers that drive the business, according to Claghorn. In an effort to differentiate their providers, Sugared + Bronzed requires extensive training for both sugaring and tanning, where trainees work on an average of 50 people before going full-time.
“We have to get consistent feedback from all of those people that they work on,” Claghorn said. “They could have 15 really great pieces of feedback towards the end of their training, and then if we get anything that was like, ‘Hey, that was more painful than usual’ [then] we go back a phase.”
The experience is especially important, as tanning and hair removal are often services guests do on a monthly basis. With this in mind, Sugared + Bronzed offers memberships, which 50 percent of its customers take advantage of. Memberships grew 50 percent year-over-year in 2023, as well.
While brick-and-mortar growth is top of mind, Sugared + Bronzed also has its own line of products, which Claghorn plans to expand. E-commerce has also been key in tracking where they should open outposts next. The product line includes Sunless Tanning Water, $24; Sunless Tanning Lotion, $26; Exfoliating Scrub, $24, and Sheer Sunscreen, $22. The brand’s Sugar Paste, $45, is also available, though this is primarily marketed toward independent providers. In terms of expansion, future products will address prep and post-care for sunless tanning and hair removal.
“We have a few products on Amazon, and that’s our only third-party retailer,” Claghorn said. “[We’re] looking into potentially more third-party retailers as we expand that portion of the business.”