Pools, Spas & Saunas 2016 - Wet Leisure

The media has commented that spas and hot tubs are becoming increasingly popular. Have you seen this reflected in your business this year?

The responses to this question do seem to conflict slightly with the picture of the spa and hot tub industry that the other sections of the survey has been drawing.

Perhaps this comment has an insight into that. “More people are looking to buy (spas) but a lot are buying the cheap ones on line and I think that’s where the market is growing fastest.”

Certainly the big, online hot tub retailers who are offering countrywide installation are capturing a big segment of the market.

But it’s almost always possible for a specific business to buck the market trends as this comment illustrates. “Our premium showroom was set up to push buyers more in the direction of higher end models, it’s achieved its goal quickly and easily. Our garden centre showsite was geared more towards the budget end and it has had a phenomenal year.”

The industry has long had the concern that as the economy recovered and volume returned to the spa and hot tub business, ‘cheap imports’ would absorb a lot of that growth.

There probably is a case to be made for educating customers in terms of the warranties that they might expect from a quality spa, it’s life expectancy and features.

Another possibility is to regulate for Energy Efficiency Ratings that are common on other domestic electrical goods. Would that be good for the industry? Perhaps we should at least open the debate.

Are people building new swimming pools or are they refurbishing existing pools? Which aspect of the pool sector is keeping your business busy?

We have already seen that pool refurbishment is a stronger market at the moment than new pool builds.

As one comment puts it, “We have found that the pool side of our business has diminished hugely over the last 8 years. This started to take effect during the recession and has never recovered. We used to sell a huge amount of packaged in ground pools (outdoor) where we financed the whole build through personal loans with our finance houses. This market has all but disappeared.”

New technologies give customers new choices and options. “We’ve seen an increase in homeowners swapping a pool for a swimspa to reduce running costs and create space.”

From the other comments it seems very likely that of the 47% of responses that said their business carried out both new builds and refurbishments, much more than half of that volume of work was refurbishment.

So where is the UK pool industry headed?

If you want to see the heyday of the industry you need perhaps to look as far back as the late 70’s and early 80’s when British summers seemed hotter and holidays spent abroad were somewhat rarer.

In more recent times there was a relative boom in underground pools for the wealthy in London but many councils now look less favourably on requests to excavate basements and install a subterranean pool.

As we have already seen, the ‘entry level’ product, the outdoor above ground pool, is a declining market for our industry.

But a pool still has enormous appeal; it still speaks to people about health, lifestyle and luxury.

Perhaps the industry as a whole needs to do more about informing consumers about all the new technologies that can reduce the running cost and environmental impact of a pool. Perhaps the industry needs to excite people about the possibilities of clever design to fit a pool into a smaller space or an awkward site.

We should talk to customers and help them re-examine their thoughts and pre-conceptions about pools? Is that another debate our industry could begin?

Only a few years ago, sauna and steam were a niche sector of the industry. Is that still the case?

“We have seen a growing demand for bespoke sauna and steam rooms from architects and designers.”

Sauna and steam are still buoyant in the market but there is still a sense that the wet leisure industry as a whole hasn’t become entirely comfortable with them yet.

Looking at the responses to the survey, the sauna sector appears to be doing more than averagely well in the Midlands and the North and is stronger in the commercial sector than the domestic.

The top-end of the market has bought into sauna and steam but what those customers are buying are bespoke installations that are in home health spas or luxury en-suite bathrooms.

As one commenter puts it, “People are realising that they can have these in their house. We custom build ours so this is a growing sector.”