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These are the products retailers saw strong sales with in 2014:
The problem with pool stores: Many of them look the same. To break the mold, the pros at Lonza pioneered a new design approach that focuses on fun. As we discussed in "Bringing the Fun Forward" (August 2014), adding a fresh coat of paint in an unconventional color (orange, anyone?) and some large, eye-catching graphics can get customers excited to come visit.
When it comes to competition from big box stores and Internet retailers, how do you compete? Here's just a few thoughts:
"Trying to sell products and models that aren't heavily competitive online. For the ones that are, we offer price matching in the form of a store gift card for other merchandise, as opposed to just discounting."
"Double labor charge for items installed not purchased through us. Price tabs and shock at or below their price."
"We offer price matching on identical items, we highlight items in our store that we are price competitive on, we sell ourselves and our company on the knowledge that we have to help the customer with their products providing support they won't get online."
"With our company story and phenomenal customer service. Our knowledgeable staff has been our staple since our early beginnings and our loyal customers are grateful."
While retailers in other industries see online retailing as an essential part of business, we found the majority of those in the pool and spa industry don't have an online presence. On top of that, many don't think it's in the cards for them at all.
"We offer an online store but don't see a great deal of traffic or consistent orders from it. It's nice to have for additional exposure."
"Online retail is a good way for us to reach customers that are not in our retail areas, and also to stay competitive."
"If you aren't working quickly to move your business towards being omni-channel, you are already five years behind."
No (and we don't plan to): 45%
"We are not set up to be successful to sell or compete with online retailers."
"I'm busy doing what I do for my existing customers."
"We do business with certain manufacturers that frown on online sales."
No (but we're considering it): 30%
"We're in the process of learning."
*Of those who retail online, 63 percent say their business is getting stronger.
To get a closer look at the hot tub industry, we asked a few spa-specific questions to our survey takers.
Do you sell swim spas?
Yes: 44% | No: 56%
How are sales?
"Limited. We are not displaying swim spas because of limited space and the cost."
"Flat — not a huge percentage of our overall spa sales. About 5 percent."
"Sales are growing. Customer awareness and demand are increasing."
Who's buying them?
According to our survey respondents, their most common hot tub customer is between 41 and 50 years old.
To cap off our hot tub section, we gave you free rein to tell us your thoughts about the state of the hot tub industry. Here are your thoughts.
What's your biggest concern?
"We are still not top of mind to most consumers. We need to make a more coordinated effort at getting the word out that hot tubs are NOT labor intensive to care for nor expensive to operate."
"We have seen a large increase in hot tub leads over the last year, but we converted less than 40 percent of them. While some reasons could be on us, a lot shows there is great potential within our market and industry but we all need to do better job and step it up. Since it is a luxury item, there is plenty of competition to go against (house renovation, new car or boat, college tuitions, etc.)."
What needs to change?
"We need to teach the consumer the importance of buying from your local dealer and not from an Internet company. What will they do when the local retailer is gone and all they have left is the Internet? They will not come out and service your spa."
"I see too much negative selling. It seems that a lot of sales guys bash the competition rather than sell the benefits of their own product."
"We need a better response mechanism for online shoppers."
Dress for the job you want — and dress your showroom for the people to whom you wish to sell. In "Show it Off" (January 2015), we talked to JR and Julie Richards, the husband and wife duo who own Richards Total Backyard Solutions in Houston, Texas, about how the gave their showroom an upscale makeover. With marble countertops, elegant lighting and picture-perfect decor, the Richards says the showroom makes their products look irresistible.
As the recession dips further and further into the past, the majority of retailers say they're feeling confident in their businesses and the industry as a whole.
How comfortable do you feel about the future of pool and spa retailing?
What's your biggest concern this year?
"Low-ball pricing and few professionally exclusive products. I am not sure what it means to be a pool and spa professional at this point. Anybody and everybody can represent and sell the pool and spa products."
"Finding and training reliable help."
"Sluggish economy, financing approvals are down and we are starting our season off with a serious drought."
"Hiring people who pass a drug test."
"Getting people in the store."
This is why you get out of bed every morning: