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Sector spotlight: tattoo shops


Getting ‘inked’ has gone well and truly mainstream.

Tattoos are no longer deemed only for leather-clad bikers who are allergic to the office; in fact, more and more professionals are now wearing ink.

Some employees have even decided to get tattoos of their company logo – whether it’s a way of demonstrating allegiance or literally illustrating a proud moment of their career, who knows.

And with celebrity endorsement of the trend spanning the likes of UN ambassador Angelina Jolie to veteran news reader David Dimbleby (who got his first tattoo at 75 years old), it seems almost rude to be without one.

With such ubiquitous favour, there are more potential customers than ever. Here’s a quick overview of the tattoo industry and what to look out for and think about before you buy a tattoo shop.

Legal: laws and licencing

Before you start practicing in your brand new tattoo parlour, you absolutely must hold a licence. You will generally need to apply for one in the area you want to work in – however this also means that you will only be able to practice your profession in this area.

In applying for the licence to own and run a tattoo parlour, you agree to the Local Government Act 1982 (recently amended by the 2003 act of the same name). This means that the local authority which presides over the location of the tattoo parlour has the right to make sure that the business is adhering to the local bylaws that relate to the hygiene of the equipment, staff and premises by inspection.

A copy of the licence or certificate should be displayed in a visible place on the premises. In failing to comply with this, a fine could be incurred.

The Tattooing of Minors Act 1969 is another law to be noted. This states that it is illegal for anyone to tattoo someone under the age of 18, whereby the offence is only applicable to the person carrying out the procedure, rather than the person asking for the tattoo.

Finally, the Health and Safety at Work Act (HSWA, 1974) should be complied with. This should be enforced by the tattooist by asking about any potential allergies the customer may have, as well as any health issues which may be exacerbated by the procedure.


In simple terms: do you want to be based in the city or suburbia?

The city is the more obvious choice; not only will there more people in the area, but passing trade is a plus. However, if you’re renting or buying, you will pay a premium for urban space.

Suburbia will have far less footfall, however the price of commercial properties (to rent or buy) will likely be lower. A large portion of your budget should therefore be spent on marketing, as that is what is going to get you your customers, and then a name for yourself (hopefully a positive one!)

What should also be taken into consideration is that many landlords will require you to sign a lease for a commercial property if you decide to rent. This is, more often than not, longer than a standard residential one would be.

Supplies and furniture

Your tattoo shop will need specialist furniture and supplies – both of which should conform to what your licence states or you could have it revoked. 

For examples of what you may need, have a glance at The Tattoo Shop, which sells essentials for the industry.

An individual style

If you’re interested in the tattoo industry, you’ll know that there are hundreds of different styles, and avid tattoo fans will flock to their favourite artist because of their particular flair.

Some tattoo shops specialise in certain art styles; Time Out recently compiled a list of their favourites in London. The styles vary from ‘new school and Japanese’ to ‘western or oriental iconography.’

Evidently, if you want your tattoo shop to specialise in a certain style, you’ll have to hire staff with that in mind. 
As a side note, obviously make sure that tattoo artists have the relevant qualifications to warrant the title before hiring them.

Also take a look at the Great British Tattoo Show for further inspiration.

A design for life?

Buying and running a tattoo shop can initially be rather costly; you will need to have a comfortable amount of capital to buy the business, rent or buy a commercial property, pay for the equipment and supplies as well as think about staff salaries. You need to invest some thought into how you will seek to raise finance.

However, don’t let this deter you from pursuing your dream of buying and running a tattoo shop. If you’re dreaming of ink, research and plan and you could be living your dream. 


Interested? Take a look at our Tattoo shops for sale at


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