This past December I read with great interest a market research report about the future of the global inflatable and portable pools market published by Research and Markets, a Dublin-based global market research firm. The report caught my eye because the research indicated that by 2023, the market for the most affordable form of pool is estimated to boast a 13-percent compound annual growth rate.

That’s a potentially very big number that can only be the result of market trends leading consumers to the product category.

The report, “Global Portable and Inflatable Swimming Pool Market 2018-2022,” points to a handful of key market factors supporting inflatable and portable pool products, including mandatory swimming programs in schools, increased urbanization, reduced space for construction of permanent pools, the desire for convenience and portability and, of course, the radically lower cost of inflatable and portable vessels compared to permanent structures.

The report also suggests e-commerce sites are a major market driver, specially considering that parents with young children nowadays are mostly millennials who have grown up with online retail as their primary retail option.

RELATED: Purely Portable

“With the presence of a considerable number of companies, this market appears to be fragmented,” the report states. “Portable and inflatable swimming pool companies are focused on the online distribution channel and actively involving in e-commerce activities to enhance their visibility and sales revenue.”

In addition, developments in the products themselves, including a greater variety and increasingly creative designs, further bolsters the market.

In the most direct sense, this trend would seem to bode well for retailers who offer inflatable and portables, from mega-box stores down to mom-and-pop pool and spa retailers. Beyond that obvious connection, however, is a broader perspective worth considering. In a word, it all comes down to experience.

POSITIVE POSITIONING

The portable and inflatable pool category expands the spectrum of consumers who are able to afford a version of the aquatic experience in their homes. As much as the pool and spa industry should promote the benefits of pool and spa ownership, many families (especially young families) simply cannot afford to make the large investment in a traditional swimming pool — or even a portable spa.

Yet, ironically, it is that very market segment that may be the ripest for expansion because of the factors outlined above. Put another way, this product category, which rarely gets much attention in the pool and spa industry, may well be the perfect gateway purchase, the trailhead leading to a future of involvement in the aquatic lifestyle. In that sense, it is in our industry’s best interest to embrace and promote inflatable pools.

RELATED: San Antonio Man Donates Inflatable Pools to Local Families

It’s basic common sense that for many of us is supported by real-life experience. In my case, for example, my very first memories of having fun in water were in the simplest of backyard inflatable pools filled with a garden hose. We also had neighbors that had aboveground portable pools, i.e. the iconic Doughboy pool that could be assembled and filled in an afternoon.

My friends and I didn’t care in the least that those pools weren’t permanently installed concrete, vinyl or fiberglass vessels. Those distinctions never even registered in our minds. Our only concern was that opportunity to cool off in the summer heat and the countless hours of fun we had splashing around.

REASONABLE CONCERNS

Last month, I shared my mostly critical opinion about the perils of different types of DIY pools. In that discussion, I mentioned the safety issues that inevitably arise when consumers take on the installation process with no professional help. Some would argue portable and inflatable pools fall under the same umbrella.

However, when we step back and look at this category, which in a way can be considered part of the DIY market, inflatable/portable pools would seem to be the better way to go simply because they are pre-manufactured and almost certainly more reliable than homemade structures consisting of CMUs and visqueen.

Yes, inflatables are prone to puncture, which can be problematic for obvious reasons, and most of these pools do not come with recirculating filtration systems. (Although some do.) Certainly, those caveats should be made clear to potential buyers.

Still, it seems apparent that offering an ultra-affordable aquatic option for young families stands to benefit both the consumer and the industry that, at its core, is all about the joy of getting wet.

Eric Herman is Senior Editor of AQUA Magazine.