Looking specifically at the three main areas of the wet leisure industry:
Spas and hot tubs.
We have already seen that the hot tub and spa market this year has been robust.
We commented last year, and it has probably also been true of this year that spas have had positive exposure in the media and that their popularity in hotels and rented holiday accommodation means not only increased sales to those areas but also that more and more people are getting to experience the enjoyment and benefit of a spa and may well choose to buy one of their own.
‘B & Q have started selling spas which has clearly affected sales.’
Spas have become mainstream and this can be both a benefit and a danger to the industry. B&Q have 18 spas for sale on their website from a couple of hundred pounds up to £23,000. Tesco Direct have 75 listings on their site under the heading ‘Hot Tubs & Spas’ and they also offer a spa for just over £20,000. Homebase offers a 20’ swim spa for £23,000 including free delivery and installation. They are selling spa covers, spa steps and other accessories.
‘With the amount of cr**py imports, I no longer bother selling or repairing spas.’
For many spa dealers the focus of their attention, if you ask about competition, is on ‘cheap imports sold on the Internet’. If these major UK retailers put their infrastructure and marketing muscle behind making greater and greater inroads to the spa market, then that surely is a far more worrying threat to the wet leisure industry as we see it.
Refurbishments dominate the swimming pool sector. The numbers say it and the comments say it.
‘We do more major and minor refurbishment than pool building’ and ‘Plant refurbishments and repairs are what we do, alongside maintenance.’
That being said, the survey did see growth in the ‘entry level’ above ground pool market for the first time in many years. Quite why this should have happened remains a mystery. There was certainly no summer heat wave and we aren’t aware of any increased exposure in the media.
Sauna and steam.
In the main, the comments regarding the sauna and steam sector talk about a lack of enquiries.
There are, of course, some exceptions such as, ‘We have seen good growth in saunas sales during 2017. Customers are far more aware of the benefits to be gained from sauna and steam bathing’.
In previous years we had seen steady growth in the sauna sector balanced by a concern that, as sauna installations changed according to customer taste, it was possible that people would look first to bathroom installers for an en-suite sauna rather than the wet leisure industry.
There is certainly a lot of interest in sauna and steam in the on-line media and that is probably generating interest and sales, but we simply aren’t seeing that reflected in this year’s survey results.
Finally we would like to take a closer look at the three strongest geographic regions that the survey looked at; the South East, South West and the Midlands.
34% of the survey respondents this year were based in the South East.
In terms of size, their employee numbers conform to the survey averages and they sell a slightly above average amount of consumables.
They start to become a more distinct group when we look at the sectors of the industry that they are involved in. They are much more likely to be involved in the pool sector than the survey average and they focus on service and repairs even more than the rest of the UK.
‘More people seem to be having staycations, therefore want to make sure pool is usable all season.’
Swimspas are a big part of business in the South East, as are sauna and steam installations. In the pool sector, businesses in the South East are even more involved in refurbishment than the survey average probably reflecting the South Easts larger stock of pre-existing pools.
20% of the survey respondents this year were based in the South West.
A higher than average proportion of them are working in both the domestic and commercial sectors which probably reflects the importance of tourism – hotels and holiday rentals – to the region. By the same token, service and repairs are very important to businesses in the South West.
‘Maintenance in holiday homes has been strong.’
The weather was seen to have a far, far bigger influence on business than the economy. Indeed, the economy in the South West has remained fairly strong.
‘We tend to do a lot of high-end refurbishments and new builds with far more products than past years. Site liners have doubled as well as safety covers. People are spending a lot more on high end products.’
20% of the survey respondents this year were based in the Midlands.
This region tends to be home to slightly larger businesses, at least in terms of employee numbers.
Spas are more popular in the Midlands, as are saunas. In fact, about one third of all the spa sales reported by the survey were made in the Midlands.
In contrast to the South West, it is the economy that is seen to affect business here. ‘Brexit on its own isn’t an issue, however, the political uncertainty over the year, in particular the impact of the General Election and negativity of the media has impacted consumer confidence and buying moods.’