For three years running (or as long as we've asked the question), an overwhelming majority of builders have reported expansion — a particularly encouraging sign given the diversity of survey respondents. Builders in all markets, from package pool installers and fiberglass pool companies to high-end custom builders, are all experiencing good times. Those blue-sky results bode well for the immediate future.

Another sign of builder strength is the increasing diversity of builder activities. Again, respondents consistently report moving into different types of product offerings, including gunite alternatives, fiberglass and package pools, as well as continued movement into landscape features such as outdoor kitchens, fire elements and lighting systems. Builders report these trends are supported, if not driven by, increasing consumer sophistication and education via digital media.

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Still, for all the positives, the builder segment has a problem with availability of skilled labor as well as an overall lack of young people coming into the industry — a theme that projects throughout all industry segments. Coupled with rising consumer demand, the long-term impact of the current labor and leadership shortage is an issue the industry at large must address with greater determination.

That serious concern notwithstanding, there is little question the builder segment has generated positive momentum, at least for now. How well the industry will sustain that upward trend in the face of the ongoing labor crunch, competition from other industries and inevitable economic shifts, remains to be seen.

 

Industry Spotlight: Great American Waterfall Company

Water features are an exciting category in pool design — it's a field that readily embraces new ideas and technology to create exciting, modern features that double as works of art. Here, Aaron Dixon, president of Great American Waterfall Company, describes the company's approach to developing new products for an expanding market.

AQUA: What type of feature is the most popular, and why?

Aaron Dixon, president, Great American Waterfall Company: There seems to be so many favorites among our customers! From sheers to rains to wetwalls, they all have their places within the grand vision of shaping water. From the inception of the sheer fall in the late '80s to now, there has been a collective merging of multiple industries into what some of us now call the outdoor living industry. Using the design principles from our sheer water feature, the "founding fathers" of Great American Waterfall innovated to apply new shapes of water to these designs from different realms. So I guess you could say our most popular feature is our ability to customize the shape of water to fit our client's vision.

AQUA: How important is price in selling your products?

AD: For many installers, price has become too important a factor in their buying choices. When given the choice, the American consumer will purchase a higher-quality product over a lower-cost imported commodity. This is an important topic within our discipline, industry and country currently in history. We all know our industry correlates directly with the changes in the economy in the same fashion as luxury relates to need. It has driven us, as buyers, to look for quality in products that are sustainable such that our dollars invested in that purchase are enjoyable for a very long time.

AQUA: What product advancements and innovations have you made as a result of customer feedback?

AD: Every product that we produce is an example of innovation at the direction of our clients. As the range of fixtures increased to include sheers, rains, wetwalls, storms, waves, etc., we have risen to meet the need of our customer's vision to shape water. The humility to recognize idea, the drive to research/develop those ideas through prototyping, and expertise to fabricate bringing those ideas to market is the culture that exists within Great American Waterfall.

This type of collaboration with outside sources has led to the relationship between Great American Waterfall and its new Director of R&D, Chris Walton. Within the last quarter of 2017 we conceived and brought to market two products that will forever change the way water was previously shaped by similar products. The Aqua Spout Extreme provides a solid laminar flow with gpm capacity previously unnseen in the scupper market. With its innovative baffling system, it will change common installation method as well by eliminating the need for individual valving. Then there is the Aqua Zero Edge system, which will bring an exotic edge detail to a wider demographic of consumers at a fraction of the previous cost to install the same look. Both innovative products came from the collaboration with customers.

AQUA: Does the availability of affordable fountain features enable greater design creativity and flexibility?

AD: We don't look at it as a correlation between affordability and creativity/flexibility, but we can see that as a result of product innovation — you can make more exotic shapes of water fit within a greater demographic of budgets for design. Creativity is what allows us to innovate! The more drive we have to create grandiose shapes of water, the easier it is for us to pursue the flexibility of the method and thereby make it more affordable.

 

Eric Herman is Senior Editor of AQUA Magazine.