Given the industry's current struggles to keep up with the overwhelming demand for watershapes, Eric Herman suggests that it's time to consider what's driving the buying frenzy – and spend some time in the buyer's shoes.
By Eric Herman
As silver linings go, the pool and spa industry has a big story to tell in these strangest of days. As widely reported, the construction segment of the industry has been overwhelmed by the current demand for pools and at this writing there is no indication of it ending any time soon.
Deemed essential during the COVID lockdown, pool construction has moved forward and the phones have not stopped ringing. Watershape designers and builders serving clients across the economic strata report they’re busier than they’ve ever been, as have spa retailers where delivery times have been pushed back months. Even inflatable pools at big box retailers sell out as soon as they hit the shelves.
As a result, we now know that when things got tough, and people were confined to their homes, our entire country went swimming, or at least wanted to. The big lesson in all of this is quite simple: our industry’s products have profound value. It might seem strange that it took a global pandemic for many people to realize how fantastic pools are, but that is exactly what has happened.
As self-evident as that revelation may be, I bring it up with the reminder that pools don’t always enjoy such a warm welcome in the arena of public opinion and press coverage. I speak from experience having written about problematic topics such as child safety, suction entrapment, infectious diseases and construction defects. Those are all critically important topics, no question, and they also impact the way many people view watershapes of all types. Throw in the occasional online or print article about the hidden costs of pool maintenance and there can be little wonder why potential pool and spa owners often have harbored genuine concerns.
Take biological safety, for example. Every year in spring at the start of the swimming season, there is viral reporting of studies targeting decidedly unsavory issue such as urine in pools or fecal incidents that cause outbreaks of Cryptosporidium, or Legionnaires outbreaks linked to improperly treated hot tubs. Just that specter of harmful microorganisms alone is enough to give someone pause.
Fact is, bad news travels fast and with bodies of water, there are risks that require preventive measures. My hope is that the current overwhelming demand puts those issues, valid and even life-saving though they may be, in a more balanced perspective.
The good news is that with every single problem associated with pools and spas, all of them are all 100% preventable. It makes me think of comparisons to driving a car. We all know the risks and as a result most everyone wears a seatbelt, puts their small kids in safety seats, and smart drivers check their tire pressure and keep up on basic maintenance. It’s not surprising that many people gravitate toward vehicles with sound safety records and reasonable operating and maintenance costs. It’s what we do so that we can enjoy a less worrisome and costly driving experience.
In many respects pools and spas are the same. Informed buyers opt for reliable sanitization systems, energy efficient technology, safety features and seek out reputable companies that deliver a quality product. It’s all part and parcel of being able to swim and luxuriate at home.
This is why I believe this is a time to not only maximize the opportunity to thrive financially, but also embrace the reasons driving the current demand. Many consumers have transitioned from simply liking the idea of pool ownership to essentially requiring it. They are willing to wait, they are able to pay and they are obviously inclined to see past some of the hard wraps our industry has endured over the years, or at least regard those concerns in a different light.
How long this demand will last is anyone’s guess, but all things economic being cyclical, there will again come a time when the market cools down and we will again be faced with the need to promote the benefits of pool and spa ownership. Remembering what happened in 2020 and the way current events have amplified the benefits of an aquatic lifestyle, I believe, will and should stay with us forever.