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For the past several years, we've started off our annual SOI Builder Survey with the same basic question: Are you optimistic about the coming year? As has become customary, responses were overwhelmingly positive, with 93 percent saying they are optimistic and 7 percent saying they are not.
Those responses support what nearly everyone in the industry believes about the state of the pool and spa business: It is red hot! While that probably does not come as a surprise to anyone paying attention to economic trends, it is interesting to see how all-encompassing the wave of prosperity has become in recent years.
In all aspects of the construction side of the pool and spa industry, respondents point to a business landscape that is defined by both opportunity and innovation. From package pools to fiberglass to inground concrete, demand is on the rise and so is customization. Builders report that they are installing a wide range of features in and around the water, with average project costs on the rise.
Like last year, the only dark spots in the big picture are the shortage of skilled labor and the challenge of setting up a succession plan for companies with aging owners and managers. And, despite the prosperity, many respondents feel the industry needs to collectively do more to promote the benefits of pool and spa ownership.
While meeting the current blazing demand remains challenging, there can be no question industry builders are riding high.
Because every pool and pool owner is different, finding the right combination of features, functions and components for each project means builders need reliable and comprehensive equipment choices. To meet this diverse, growing demand, Hayward Industries is working to provide cutting-edge technology and technical support, all aimed at enhancing the consumer experience and dealer options.
AQUA: From a manufacturer perspective, what challenges have come as a result of the hot construction and renovation market — in terms of technical support, product development and marketing to a new generation of industry professionals?
David MacNair, vice president of marketing: As demand for products such as automation throughout the entire home and the importance of outdoor living spaces has grown, it's up to us to make sure that our customers, as well as pool owners, have all the support they need for a seamless experience. We've expanded our product troubleshooting tools to include an online support center and have introduced a fleet of Hayward Mobile Technology Vehicles across the nation to ensure dealers receive personalized, hands-on training, especially for our high technology products, so they can provide superior expertise to customers.
Overall, pool owners are looking to eliminate frustrations with their pool equipment and for pool ownership to be as affordable and enjoyable as possible. And pool professionals want to provide their customers with efficient, reliable products that are easy to install and maintain. We've made great strides in recent years developing equipment that exceeds these demands, especially with the introduction of smart pool control for the aftermarket that integrates with existing pool equipment and other smart home solutions.
As with all industries, younger generations are consuming information in new ways, especially in digital formats. The pool industry is still in its infancy in terms of how it uses digital marketing technologies, but we've been working to improve our systems and tools, making them easier and more productive to use. Some of these advancements include the expansion of online resources such as our video content, Download Center and Support Center, as well as the introduction of the new Hayward Pool Solutions app that allows servicers and dealers to save time managing their customer data, filing claims and replacing equipment.
The growing construction and renovation market really presents the pool industry with a grand opportunity for growth.
AQUA: Are builder/dealers embracing remote voice control as a selling point for VS Omni?
Greg Fournier, senior product manager, controls and backyard synergies: Absolutely. When selling controls and automation systems like VS Omni, AquaRite Omni and OmniHub, our builders and dealers are selling technology solutions to make owning a pool easier and more efficient. So when they can talk about additional features that make smart pool control more appealing and accessible, they are excited. With more than 45 million Amazon Echo voice assistants installed, having a pool controller that integrates with their Amazon smart home system resonates immediately with customers and gives them an awesome way to interact with their pool. Imagine "Alexa, ask Hayward to turn on my pool lights" from almost anywhere in the house. It definitely enhances the whole pool experience.
AQUA: Has LED technology opened up new opportunities for builders looking to add interest and value to their projects?
James Carter, product manager, lighting: It's no longer just an opportunity; it's become the standard expectation for most savvy customers. Homeowners are searching for an immersive experience where the pool becomes an essential part of their backyard lifestyle. That shouldn't end just because the sun went down — on the contrary, a pool is never more stunning and inviting than when well-lit during the evening.
The versatility of LED product offerings available enable builders to add the "wow" factor by providing vivid color illumination that expands to areas or features that were previously untouched. Bubblers, laminars, rock waterfalls, grottos, sun decks, stairs and even landscaping are all features that can complement the main body of water while enabling dramatic personalization of the pool.
AQUA: Are builder/dealers responding favorably to the Hydrorite UVO3 sanitizing system, and do you see the combination of ozone, UV and AOP as the future of alternative sanitizers?
Jason Davila, product manager, chemical automation: Yes, we absolutely do see UV, ozone and advanced oxidation as an integral part of the overall solution space for sanitizing pools and spas. UV and ozone technologies have been around for decades and their benefits are well known in pools and spas. What is less understood by the pool industry is the role of advanced oxidation (e.g. UV + ozone) in the sanitization regimen. We believe that, over time, the industry will become more familiar and experienced with this technology and will come to embrace it.
Incidentally, advanced oxidation is widely used in non-pool water treatment applications, so it is just a matter of time before such knowledge becomes widespread throughout our industry. Hayward is doing its part in helping to educate the trade, as well as consumers, in this area.
With the North American economic engine running at about 3,000 rpm with pools and spas going in faster than any time in the last decade, the service sector as a whole is cruising into the summer of 2019.
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Steam is rising from the portable hot tub industry. It was another generous year in spa sales: 88 percent of survey takers reported sales either increased or stayed the same last year. Dealers remain optimistic about the growth of the industry and credit strong sales to a growing economy, investment in social media marketing strategies, lead generation campaigns and more.
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Right now, life for the pool and spa retailer is going swimmingly. As we found in our SOI retail survey — which received a record-breaking number of responses this year — just over half of respondents feel "very comfortable" with the future of the industry. Sixty-three percent said their businesses are growing stronger. These encouraging numbers point to another promising season of high revenues and happy customers.
At the same time, prosperity has not led to complacency. Pool and...
The Pool & Hot Tub Alliance has named Sabeena Hickman as the organization's new president, chief executive officer and staff liaison to the board of directors. Hickman, who most recently served as the CEO of the National Association of Landscape Professionals, brings 20 years of association experience to her new role. She will start September 3. Lawrence Caniglia, current president and CEO, will continue in an advisory role to aid in the transition.
“We are delighted that...