Once used mainly for rehab, swim spas are no longer
just for the training room. They've joined spas and
in-ground swimming pools as a viable option for
families seeking fun in their backyards.
As customers become more aware of swim spas, they will
become an easier sell. But for now, retailers say that in-store
displays, educated sales staffs and directed advertising help
spread the message of the swim spas' myriad benefits.
"This year, I can't believe we're selling as many as we
are," says John Ioppini, president of Leisure Time Family
Fun Center, Atascadero, Calif. The store is selling about
one a month, and Ioppini has a goal to sell 15 this year. The
store has been carrying Dimension One swim spas for two
years to complement its other hot tubs from the same
manufacturer. "I was first concerned about the price,"
Ioppini says. "But compared with other brands, it's a good
value for the price."
Manufacturers say the swim spa market currently is concentrated along both coasts, "but that's picking up as we
speak," says Bob Markiton, president of Sunbelt Spas,
Graeme Thomson, general manager at manufacturer
Hydropool Industries, Mississauga, Ontario, says the market is "Everybody — young families all the way up to the
elderly." The three key market areas
are those who swim for fitness, those
who use swim spas for therapy and
those who want to have fun with
friends and family. And as lot sizes
get smaller, more families are opting
for swim spas over in-ground pools to
retain a little green space for a garden, a sandbox for the kids or a little
patch of grass, Thomson says.
After doubling sales each of the
past four years, Thomson anticipates
at least a 25 percent increase in
swim spa sales this year.
"It just keeps on growing," Carl R. Meyer of Rio SwimSpas says of the
category. The Brownsville, Texasbased manufacturer offers 13 models
for residential use, with water
depths ranging from 3- to 4--feet. The company also builds deeper
physical therapy swim spas, as well
as a commercial line aimed at fitness
"Space is one consideration for
swim spas," says Meyer. "People go
for them because they can swim; the
spa is an added benefit." Other benefits include less water to heat and
keep properly sanitized, easy installation and lower operating costs
compared with a pool.
Although it would be a large
undertaking, most swim spas are portable, a key factor that influences
sales, says Markiton. Last year,
Sunbelt sold 200 swim spas; this
year Markiton predicts the company
will sell double that.
"People buy them because they
want to exercise," he ays, "but there's
so much more you can do with it. I've
never swam in mine, but I've had a
lot of spa parties."
Curt Prystupa, president of Sun
Fiberglass Products, Brooksville, Fla.,
says therapy is the motivating factor
for people who buy his company's
swim spas. "The No. 1 market is for
those who have therapeutic needs,"
Prystupa says. "Someone's had a
stroke, a hip or knee replacement and
wants to rehab as opposed to exercise."
The company offers residential
models up to 17 feet with a fitness
package that includes fitness jets and
hydrotherapy jets. The company also
makes a 15-by-35-foot model with
swim jets. "With a swim spa, you can
swim until you can't swim anymore,"
says Prystupa. "You can get a good
workout and not go anywhere."
American doctors prescribe vertical
water exercise to six million people a
year, says Jeff Knight, director of
sales for aquatic fitness systems at
Dimension One Spas, Vista, Calif.
He says swim spas are used 20 per
SEPTEMBER 2003 AQUA
Swim spa users can swim upstream for health.
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CIRCLE 119 ON REPLY CARD
AQ_Sept03_swimspas_PF 8/13/03 10:08 AM Page 43
cent of the time for swimming and
the rest of the time for such vertical
water exercises as walking, jogging
or aquatic fitness.
The picture of the typical swim
spa buyer has been undergoing a
metamorphosis, from older buyers
who wanted the unit for therapy to
younger couples, with or without
children, who want to get exercise
and have fun in the backyard.
Dimension One has been in the
category for two years, adding swim
spas to its lineup. "For us, the
growth has been phenomenal,"
Knight says. "If it's not the best
growth category for us, it's the second best. People feel very comfortable buying a swim spa from us
because they know our spas."
Displays Are Key To Sales
In the first five months of this year,
Master Spas of Wisconsin has sold 15
swim spas, says owner Craig
Hueffner, who's known in his
Waukesha, Wis., market as "Spa
Man." "We're the only store in our
market selling swim spas," he says.
The store has only been selling
swim spas since December, but the
units made a big splash at recent
home shows and fairs, where the
company generates 90 percent of its
AQUA SEPTEMBER 2003
Although it's a piece of exercise and conditioning equipment, a swim spa doesn't have to look like
it belongs in the gym. Here creative water features
and tile treatments make this swim spa an aesthetic asset.
Flagstone decking and attractive plant materials can create a quiet corner for recreation or
AQ_Sept03_swimspas_PF 8/13/03 10:08 AM Page 44
AQUA SEPTEMBER 2003
ALPS Spas introduces the 8 x 14-foot
Swim Spa. Spa comes equipped with
two 175 GPM swim jets and two 90 GPM
lower swim jets, 23 total spa jets, 24hour commercial ozone, three fourcolor fiber optic lights, 5.5/11kW, and
four 5.0 56 frame pumps, ALPS says.
Portable case is now in a new wood
look, with a plastic skirt and a solid
Offering the best of both worlds, the
Olympian has both exercise and spa
zones in one versatile model. There's
plenty of room to practice favorite
strokes while swimming against the
current at a controlled pace. The luxury of a lap pool is now available at a
fraction of the cost, according to Cal
Spas. After a workout, swimmers can
wade over to the spa zone to relax and
soothe fatigued muscles.
While many consumers
are not yet familiar with
swim spas, once they
discover the versatile
swimming and soaking
vessels, they won't have
any trouble finding the
perfect unit to meet
their needs. Swim spas
are available in all sorts
of configurations, sizes,
materials and colors.
Following is a sampling
of the many swims spa
business. At a show, one shell is on
display and a second is filled with
water and swimmers demonstrating
its use. Master Spas of Wisconsin
maintains an above-ground swim spa
outside its store.
"We sell above-ground pools and
refer in-ground pools to another contractor," Hueffner says. "I think we
make more money off a swim spa
than the pool guy does on ingrounds."
Damon Fletcher, owner of Elite
Spas Northwest, Woodinville, Wash.,
says that half of the Rio SwimSpas
the store sells wind up in indoor
applications. He also says 75 percent
are for existing homes and the
remainder are sold as part of a new
Shepnell Pool & Spa Co. has been
in the swim spa business for about a
year, stocking units from Dimension
One. The company sold two swim
spas in April, "and we have some
really great leads right now," says
partner Barry Sheppard.
The company demonstrated at a
recent fair, setting up the spa with
decking all around it. "We were so
inundated with people, we had to
shut the booth down at one point,"
Sheppard says. "We didn't anticipate
that type of demand."
Buyers in his market are looking
for alternatives to pools; the swim
spa fits the bill for less money,
Even when Leisure Time Family
Fun Center doesn't have a swim spa
on display, a video loop runs in the
store to remind shoppers that the
store indeed is in the category. "We
generally try to have a display model,
but we keep selling it," Ioppini says.
What's the key to success.
"Marketing is the biggest thing,"
Ioppini says. "We advertise the heck
out of it."
Manufacturers are getting into that
game, too. Hydropool Aquatrainer
advertises in national consumer publications such as Pool & Spa Living
and Architectural Digest, as well as airline magazines. The company also
encourages its dealers to send direct
mail pieces to families with certain
incomes or property values in their
"People contact us all the time saying they saw us in a magazine,"
Thomson says. "It benefits local dealers to team up with us."
Dimension One advertises in the
in-flight magazines of Delta and
United airlines, Knight says.
"At the local level, dealers can
advertise in local magazines — home
improvement or affluent homes or
whatever –— aimed at a higher
demographic," Knight says.
He also applauds those dealers who
load up a swim spa for the local home
show: "It's always a show-stopper
when you bring one of those in."
According to manufacturers and
retailers, the best is yet to come for
those in the swim spa business.
"As baby boomers get more gray
hair, the need for swim spas will be
greater," says Prystupa. "We get a lot
of interest in them."
Grayson Walker is an Atlanta-based writer.
AQ_Sept03_swimspas_PF 8/13/03 10:08 AM Page 46
Grayson Walker is an Atlanta-based writer.