We would like to know about the Float Tank (Sensory Deprivation Tank) market in general, its target consumer base, as well as developing trends in the industry.
Hello, and thank you for your request on the float tank (sensory deprivation tank) market--including an overview of trends and the target consumer base.
In short, consumer interest in float tanks has waxed and waned over the decades but now seems to be on an upswing as individuals seek new ways to alleviate stress and ease various physical ailments. To meet this demand, a great percentage of existing float facilities have opened in the last five years, and even more are scheduled to open in the next year or two.
Stress and fatigue are the main conditions that drive people to try floating. In general, float tank users tend to be older than typical pool and spa users. Communicating the benefits of floatation will be key to market success—especially as floatation continues to shift from niche to mainstream status.
Below, please find a summary of our research.
Float tanks, also known as sensory deprivation tanks, isolation tanks or float/flotation pods, refer to water-filled tanks that contain enough Epsom salt to enable a person to float. The water is at skin temperature, and the environment is dark and soundproof to simulate a relaxing, womb-like experience.
Float tanks come in a variety of shapes and sizes--e.g., clamshell, pyramid and other styles--although the shape does not substantially affect the quality of the float experience. Regarding dimensions, width is a tank characteristic that seems important to the float experience and many manufacturers are responding to this demand. The typical tank has ~10 inches of water with about 1,000 pounds of Epsom salt dissolved within.
A Float Tank Association was formed in the early 1980s, spurring interest in this float phenomenon and its benefits. The AIDS epidemic of the mid-1980s then hit the floatation market hard, although the 2000s began to see a resurgence--and by the 2010s, the U.S. float tank industry was seeing 20-25% growth--the highest growth rate worldwide.
Float tank benefits as identified in experiments, research and case studies, include pain relief; injury recovery; relief from arthritis, scoliosis and fibromyalgia; pregnancy relief; immune system support; stress relief; alleviation of physical conditions arising from stress; respite from emotional pain; insomnia relief; treatment for jet lag; assistance with addiction; providing feelings of overall well-being; and more. While the person floats, brain waves go into Delta state and an extended Theta state, creating a sense of "emotional rejuvenation" and a quieting of one's thoughts. Benefits last several days past the float, and increased float experiences tend to intensify the benefits.
To illustrate the impact of float therapy on health, a mini-survey of float center users showed the following:
- The main reasons that survey respondents were drawn to floating included being stressed (74%) and feeling tired (47%).
- 81% found that floating helped them relax and reduce stress.
- 71% claimed that floating helped reduce their anxiety.
- 70% found that floating helped reduce back pain.
Some experts claim that sensory deprivation can also heighten creativity and learning, although research continues to assess those subjective types of advantages.
TARGET CUSTOMER BASE / DEMOGRAPHIC DRIVERS
- Float tanks are mainly targeted to those who seek a fast-track to a state of relaxation. This can include Type A individuals, busy professionals, stressed parents, insomniacs, those with depression or anxiety, and others.
- While the main users may be busy professionals, float tanks appeal to a wide range of demographics. For instance, parents sometimes bring their children in to help alleviate their kids' anxiety, and even octogenarians have been known to give it a try.
- A report from the 2016 Float Conference claims that users of floatation tanks often tend to be older and more mature than typical pool and spa users.
- Common hobbies of typical floaters include interests in meditation, holistic healthcare and athletics. Many are simply interested in achieving an altered state of consciousness.
- However, recent indications are that a more diverse range of people are trying floating, and the practice is starting to become more mainstream as consumers become more aware of floating's benefits. Various professionals are also getting into floating--e.g., some Olympic gymnasts, major league baseball players and concert pianists routinely using float tanks.
- Float tank enthusiasts tend to return to float tanks repeatedly to seek the Theta brain wave state, claiming that this state of relaxation supports elevated creativity and higher levels of consciousness.
- Conditions such as anxiety, depression and the chronic pain of fibromyalgia often drive users to float tanks for relief.
- Overall wellness is a compelling pull that often brings individuals to the float experience. Besides avoiding disease, wellness speaks to an overall quality of life that can appeal to anyone, anywhere.
MARKET TRENDS - NUMBER OF FLOAT CENTERS
In the U.S., there were more than 300 float centers in 2015--a ~253% increase from the 85 in 2011. Research promoting both physical and mental benefits of floating--including stress reduction and greater connection with others--resonate with today's busy population.
Worldwide, there are several new float centers expected to open in the next year. In a 2016 survey, 105 reported that they would be opening in the next six months--mainly in North America. Some 239 reported that they would be opening a float facility in the next two years. About forty-percent of those new facilities will have just one or two tanks, and 49% are expected to have three or four tanks.
Attendance at the annual Float Tank Solutions Conference has seen dramatic increases--from 165 in 2012 to 700 in 2016--an increase of 324%.
AVERAGE NUMBER OF FLOAT SESSIONS PER TANK
A recent survey found that a typical monthly range of floats per tank is 63-119.
THE TYPICAL FLOAT EXPERIENCE
Most participants float for 45 minutes to two hours, although it is possible for floaters to even to sleep in a float overnight. Sessions of 1-2 hours cost on average $30-$150, and most float centers offer packages and incentives to motivate recurrent visits.
A recent survey of 170 float center operators indicated that the average cost of a one-hour float is $67.20; for a 90-minute float, $77.19; and $106.92 for a two-hour float.
2016 STATE OF THE FLOAT INDUSTRY SURVEY RESULTS
A recent 2016 State of the Float Industry survey shows that interest in sensory isolation is seeing strong growth. Survey respondents, mainly from the U.S. and Canada, suggest that more and more centers are opening today--and they are larger and better-funded than in previous years.
- Of the 170 float center survey respondents, almost 88% of them had opened within the past five years. Only 7.6% have been open for more than ten years.
- About 23% of float center survey respondents operate one floatation tank; 30% have two. Ninety-one percent have four or fewer tanks.
- Massage is a common adjunct to float therapy, with about 42% of float center survey respondents saying that they offer it along with their floatation business. About 36% of survey respondents reported that they offer floatation only.
STRATEGIES FOR SUCCESS
Many float centers offer adjunct services such as massage, hypnotherapy, saunas and other related relaxation services. In fact, a recent float center survey found that the following services are compatible with the float experience, as per current and prospective float center owners:
- Massage (the most common additional service)
- Infrared saunas
- Sound healing
- Light therapy
- Chiropractic services
Those accompanying services are often compatible with a relaxation theme, although some provide specific healing benefits as well.
Other ways to increase the float center's success include incorporating it into another existing business where customers tend to go to relax--e.g., cafes and restaurants; bookstores; day spas; and art facilities.
Some float tanks have gentle music and lights to signal the end of a float session, giving the user an easy transformation back to the real world. Some float facilities offer tea or a lounge-type environment after the float to give the individuals a pleasant re-acclimation experience. Another way for float centers to differentiate themselves is to create an upscale feel via "sexy-looking" pods rather than tanks that look like bathtubs or coffins.
ANNUAL REVENUE & RETURN ON INVESTMENT
A typical tank will usually see return on investment within 300-500 sessions. Most float centers charge about $55-$75 per hour of floatation--approximately on par with the cost of a typical massage.
A recent survey found that the average annual income per float tank is roughly $39,416-$97,993. (Please keep in mind that this survey came from a relatively small sample size of 170 float facilities.)
- Most one- or two-tank float centers made less than $100,000 gross revenue during its most recent full year in operation.
- Larger three-tank centers reported typical revenue of $100,000-$250,000.
- Four-tank centers tended to see revenue in the $250,000-$500,000 range.
- However, respondents with five-tank centers tended to fall back into the under-$100,000 revenue range.
Operating costs to support an average float facility vary greatly:
- Overall, expect to spend $4-$6 per float for necessary components such as salt, laundry, shampoo and earplugs.
- Epsom Salt: Purchased in bulk, USP grade Epsom salt costs $0.40-$0.65 per pound. The typical tank requires 850-1,200 pounds of salt, amounting to $340-$780. The salt solution is changed, on average, every 6-12 months.
- Utilities: Heater type and local electricity rates dictate true electricity costs. Utility costs for the heater can run ~$10-$20 per month, and the tank's pump can cost about $30 per month to operate.
- Water-Quality Chemicals: On average, it costs $25-$40 per month per unit for water-quality chemicals and enzymes, although this varies depending on use.
On average, total costs to start a floatation tank business range from $184,000-$338,500. Other estimates are more conservative--e.g., $150,000-$250,000 to open a typical three-unit float center--and obviously, there are many variables that impact the total cost (e.g., location, number of tanks, type of facility, etc.). Cutting expenses by installing used equipment is generally not advised because the equipment is often not under warranty. It typically takes 6-12 months for a new facility to go from conception to opening.
Below are some approximate figures that offer a general idea of what costs a new float facility startup would be likely to incur:
According to float pod manufacturer The Float Pod, the build-out cost of installing a float pod center range from $54,000-$99,000, depending on demolition needs and size of the facility. For four pods, 1,500-2,200 sq. ft. are generally required.
Float Pods and Rooms: $65,000-$162,000
There is a wide range of costs for commercial tanks and pods, ranging from $12,000-$16,000 for commercial tanks, $25,000 for the Float Pod type and $40,000 for other types. For startup, Epsom salt would cost ~$2,200 for four pods.
Architecture and Permits: $5,000-$8,000
Each state and region have different permitting and building requirements, and costs range from $5,000 to $8,000.
Other factors involved in starting a floatation tank business include marketing ($6,000-$15,000); office equipment ($6,000-$12,000); utilities ($1,000-$2,500); and money for start-up cash flow.
In conclusion, float tanks and sensory deprivation tanks and pods--particularly in North America, but also worldwide--represent a robust and growing market. With people's affinity for stress-reducing remedies and a spa-type services, these float tanks offer a pleasant and soothing way to address various physical and emotional ailments. The tanks also appeal to users of all ages, creating a multitude of marketing opportunities across a wide range of customers and their specific needs. While floating used to be mainly in the realm of holistic or alternative therapies, it is moving toward a mainstream positioning, aimed at those who want to feel good. The key going forward will be to convey the benefits of floating and to encourage new customers to give it a try.
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