Like most years, 2017 was a mixture of good and bad. As one respondent said, ‘Good start – poor finish. Just like the weather.’
Brexit and the economic and political uncertainty that goes with the process continue to stifle consumer confidence and the exchange rate driven price rises that distributors were forced to bring in at the beginning of the year probably haven’t helped; although not one respondent mentioned those exchange rate issues as having had a specific effect this year.
Another ‘price related’ business issue would be the perennial problem of customers being able to look up products on-line and say to dealers, ‘But I have seen exactly the same product on the Internet for only…’ This erosion of margins is probably more detrimental to the financial health of much of the UK wet leisure industry than ‘cheap imports’.
The Internet’s continued enthusiasm for offering, ‘ready for immediate and free delivery,’ also puts pressure on distributors stock availability and delivery costs.
Refurbishment, particularly of existing swimming pools continues to be an area that grows and grows. However, in the short term at least this may not be a bad thing. In fact, as one respondent says, ‘High-end pool refurbishing is still a strong market. Some pool refurbishments are actually more lucrative than building new pools.’
Other sectors of the leisure industry are having a positive impact on our industry. In particular, travel and tourism continue to boost sales and exposure of pools, spas and saunas. ‘People buying lodges to let to holiday makers are advised – by holiday sellers – that a tub can significantly increase bookings.’
Energy saving not only remains an important consideration for our customers but is growing in importance in businesses of all types. When customers are used to seeing Energy Efficiency Ratings on fridges, cars and even houses, how long can it be before they demand the same of spas, pool pumps and heaters?