With long-term travel restrictions being enforced back in March this year, householders locked into their own states or even localities quickly turned to their backyards as an escape. Swimming pools very quickly became seen as a backyard essential.
“Suddenly the dream of owning a swimming pool became a necessity,” says Chris Meyer, managing director and owner of Narellan Pools.
“We quickly implemented a sales strategy targeting a motivated market,” he says. “Enquiries for our fibreglass swimming pools have been at a record high throughout the lockdown period, across both our domestic and international markets, as we observed new market segments and trends emerging with clients accustomed to staying at home.”
In Port Macquarie NSW, Jason Hardes and the team from Narellan Pools Mid North Coast noticed the shifts firsthand.
“We’ve sold 40 pools in the past four months alone,” says Hardes, who joined Narellan Pools last year after more than 20 years installing pools as an independent in Port Macquarie. This reflects anecdotal evidence of other pool builders quickly filling up their books.
After dominating the Australasian market, Meyer is now setting his sights on the US market.
“Our aim is to have 100 licensees operating in 2021 across the US,” he says.
“We already have more than 25 franchisees operating in Canada and just like Australia and New Zealand we are seeing record enquiries, sales and demand for a Narellan Pool in this market.
“It’s not just our world class fibreglass pools we are exporting, but our unique business model
that harnesses talent and grows a network of highly successful and profitable pool builders.
“While this year has had many challenges, our network of local pool builders are smashing records, and with our support are gearing up for another record-breaking summer.”
Narellan Pools was established nearly 50 years ago in humble beginnings in a chicken shed in south west Sydney and has grown to be recognised as a world leading pool manufacturer of technologically advanced fibreglass pools.
Since 2002, Narellan Pools has operated under a franchise model operating on the basis of exclusive territories, which Meyer says creates safety and security leading to a collaborative culture where sharing information is welcomed and enjoyed.
Spa segment buoyant, capacity dependant
Adrian Lacy, manager of national spa parts supplier Spatex, says that the spa sector has been receiving a lot of interest from consumers in light of the pandemic restrictions.
He believes that, like the entire swimming pool and spa industry according to feedback he’s had, spas are doing extremely well.
“We’ve been as busy throughout the pandemic as we are in the four weeks leading up to Christmas,” he says.
“I’m assuming it’s mainly due to the many idle minds stuck at home making use of their time to fix everything in the backyard.”
However, he says the big issue going forward will be trying to maintain supply from manufacturers with reduced capacity, and the heavily inflated international freight cost to import product in order to keep up with demand.
The issue of material supply affecting latent demand for pool and spa industry product may be felt in other segments as well.
But there is another warning, as at the moment the consumers capacity to pay is dependent on the economy, which is itself currently dependent on government financial stimulus.
“We are hoping this level of sales for the industry will continue through to Christmas without dipping when JobKeeper payments reduce,” he says.
Helping retailers navigate covid
The retail side of the industry is suffering particularly heavily in Melbourne at the moment, and Ashley Morling, Reece Irrigation & Pools marketing coordinator, says they are doing all they can to help pool technicians and retailers.
“As the state of Victoria faces one of its toughest challenges yet, we’re doing everything we can to support tradies in keeping the community healthy and safe – while also keeping our people safe and our stores open,” she says. “This includes pool professionals and the important role they play in providing environments that promote wellbeing,” Morling says.
“Following the announcement of Level 4 restrictions across metropolitan Melbourne, and Level 3 restrictions in the rest of Victoria, we have moved quickly to ensure we continue to provide the level of service our customers demand, and the community expects.”
Morling says Reece has worked with industry bodies and the Victorian Government to help drive a solution that ensures the industry, their people and their customers can support the community into the future.
Informed customers and safe stores
Reece’s daily email bulletins, online news hub and key updates on social media channels have kept their customers informed of what state restrictions mean for them.
“We’re doing our bit by making government information easy to understand, and by providing links to important documents, such as essential work permits,” she says.
“By keeping our customers informed, we are helping them work safely and legally, ensuring that they can keep doing jobs that are vital in our industry.”
She says their trade stores are still open and their people are practising heightened levels of hygiene, including the wearing of masks, the regular use of hand sanitiser, enhanced cleaning of trade counters and contactless product hand-over barriers.
“We have also implemented clear signage throughout our stores to communicate the measures and processes in place. We are encouraging our customers to use the maX app, online ordering and delivery, or our contactless click-and-collect service to minimise contact and potential spread of covid-19.”
Additionally, they are keeping a record of all tradespeople and team members who enter their stores.
CAPTION: Chris Meyer says despite the challenges, local pool builders are smashing records and gearing up for a record-breaking summer