Despite the impediments to doing business during the current pandemic, many swimming pool and spa businesses have been reporting a positive sales experience. That is not to diminish the concerns of those who are doing it tough, especially in the retail sector, but it is worth considering that at least some parts of the market are doing well – some even better than prior to the pandemic.
Some builders had more enquiries and enquiries of a higher value, while many suppliers have also reported good sales figures.
This is an abridged version of a longer article that will appear in the upcoming Edition 130 of SPLASH!. Subscribe here to get your free digital version of the magazine when it publishes.
The concrete pool builder
Brisbane concrete pool builder Summer Daze Pools and Inspections has been experiencing strong sales growth.
“I think there’s a sentiment out there where people haven’t been going on their planned holidays and can’t travel internationally, and so they’re spending that money on their homes,” says manager Anita Zaplin. “One of my friends even bought a brand new outdoor stainless steel pool table – because they wanted to spend the money they’d saved up for a holiday they now couldn’t take!
“This attitude has translated into increased swimming pool sales, and an increased spend on the sales. Our average contract sale has increased because people have that money ready to go, or have that equity, and think they might as well go the little bit extra,” she says.
“Our sales are strong – all of our Christmas digs are fully booked out and it’s quite early in the year to say that. But it’s been harder work – a lot more time goes into the follow-up, and there’s a fair bit of hand-holding to make sure everyone’s happy with the spend. We’ve worked two months straight without a weekend – and you don’t complain about that, you’re just happy to have the work.”
Zaplin also says she’s noticed a more considerate attitude from their customers at the moment.
“Maybe it’s because everyone’s trying to look out for each other but they’re really looking out for our crews – little things like putting fridges outside for them for the lunches for example, and the kids give us drawings of the pool shells with Steve and Andy in them. It’s actually really soul warming.”
While she can’t comment on what will happen come the end of the stimulus packages in September, she is planning on just enjoying the current climate while they can.
“But I think if you’ve got strong service delivery I think you’ll survive just by word of mouth.”
She also praises SPASA for helping promote the industry during this time.
“A part of why it’s been successful I think is that our industry has worked really hard to have a lot of positive press out there, letting the consumers know our industry is open to trade. I’ve not seen the other industries work as hard or advertising as pleasantly – ‘we’re still here to help you’, ‘don’t stress’ and the like. SPASA has really worked hard to make it a positive experience and has kept us all happy and feeling supported.”
The fibreglass pool manufacturer
Franchise development manager Jonathan Bate says that when the government introduced restrictions in March, Narellan Pools pivoted their operations, assessing marketing initiatives and adjusting the way they supported their local pool builders.
“With long-term travel restrictions looming, clients quickly turned to their backyards as a way of escape. Suddenly the dream of owning a swimming pool became a necessity,” says Bate.
He says Narellan Pools then implemented a sales strategy targeting a motivated market.
“Enquiries for our fibreglass swimming pools have been at a record high throughout the lockdown period, across both our domestic and international markets. We observed new market segments and trends emerging with clients accustomed to staying at home.
“In May, Narellan Pools set a new monthly sales record, smashing the previous record by well over 100 per cent. With no signs of demand slowing, we are busier than ever and anticipating another record-breaking summer.”
The chemical supplier
Lo-Chlor Chemicals managing director Paul Simons says that the fallout from the coronavirus hasn’t been too bad for their business.
“As an industry we were very lucky with the weather and the timing of the outbreak. Not that there is ever a good time for a global pandemic but had this happened in November for example the impact would have been far greater on the swimming pool industry,” he says.
Simons says they’ve seen a slowdown on the retail side of the business, which was expected, but service and pool maintenance remains strong.
“During the lockdown families were spending a lot more time around the pool area than they normally would have at that time of the year and the fantastic weather certainly helped make this possible.”
He has concerns however, about what will happen once the stimulus dries up.
“Right now we remain positive but our concern is what life looks like as we come out the other side. October onwards could be a real challenge as the government pulls back some of its stimulus packages,” he says. “Once JobKeeper – in particular – begins tapering down, disposable income will be scarcer and the cash flow into the economy will drop significantly. Right now people are spending money now but once it stops in September/October – the season’s launch – that’s when the industry could feel the pinch.
“Looking at our forecasting and budgeting we are preparing for a 10 to 15 per cent drop, based on predictions for the economy across the board. People will still have to maintain their pools but we feel they will be a lot more frugal with their finances and will be very careful as to what they spend their money on,” he says.
“Time will tell. What the government does will have a big impact, but I expect some people will still experience some hardship for the next 12 months at least.”
Caption: Summer Daze Pools and Inspections are experiencing increased spend on their sales. This is one of their pools completed last year