Spotlight: Penny Johnson, Owner, Johnson Pools & Spas, Huntsville, Ala.
Penny Johnson, former chair of the Retailers Council and frequent speaker on retailing at pool and spa shows around the country.
Where do you see the hot tub retail business headed in the next few years?
Well, this is purely speculation on my part, but I've felt for a long time that most manufacturers aren't happy with the number of hot tubs dealers are selling, and they keep trying to probe for more outlets.
So I think more and more spas are going to be sold through new outlets such as landscapers, appliance stores and club stores such as Costco and Direct Buy, especially in larger cities.
And I also see spa manufacturers utilizing their field representatives more to do things like manage temporary employees to sell their products at events, special shows, fairs, etc., such as the road shows that Master Spas has flooded the market with recently.
I just think the manufacturers want to increase their outlets beyond their old dealer network, and so they will no longer be able to give exclusive territories to dealers. Dealer loyalty will no longer be important.
Of course that will also mean changes in the way we service hot tubs. I think spa manufacturers will end up using service companies to perform their warranty work — they're not going to want to rely on their old dealer network anymore for that.
My concern is for the industry and the hot tub customer. If we don't protect them, you're going to have a lot of orphan tubs out there, and that will give the industry a bad name.
Of course all of this is pure speculation, but I see spa companies moving in directions that will get more of their products into the marketplace regardless of long-term effects on the overall industry.