Spas and hot tubs.
Spas are the volume sector of the wet leisure industry, its where we find the big numbers of sales every year and we always will.
There has been some slow and steady change in the sector though.
Last year we pointed out that Tesco had 75 listings on their web site under the heading ‘Hot Tubs & Spas.’ This year, Tesco are not selling spas or spa accessories at all, but that is due to a change in their business model – Tesco Direct has closed down – and not an indicator that selling hot tubs wasn’t profitable for them.
Of the big retailers, a cursory glance shows that Homebase, B&Q and Argos have a wide range of hot tubs and spas on their websites from cheap inflatable units to seven and eight seat hot tubs retailing for thousands of pounds and hot tub swim spas on sale for over £23,000. In fact, all three of those major retailers are offering swim spas – Argos with an impressively priced £28,999.99 and all three are offering a range of hot tub covers, steps and cover lifters.
These are not ‘cheap imports sold on the Internet’, these are products sold with the support of some of the UK’s biggest and most respected retailers. Those retailers can probably afford to beat a specialist dealer on margin but what they cannot provide is the knowledge and support that a wet leisure industry business can give a customer.
The other major trend in the spa sector is the continued and steady growth in providing, servicing and maintaining spas and hot tubs specifically for the holiday rental accommodation market. With the rise of AirBnB, this is no longer restricted to regions in the UK that are typically a holiday destination – such as the South West – but is a growing market all across the UK.
Just as it did last year, refurbishment dominates the pool sector.
Customers are looking to upgrade their pools in terms of finish and design but often they are looking to make the installations more energy efficient, more eco friendly in terms of chemicals and consumables and to reduce the amount of time they have to invest in pool maintenance and upkeep.
The wet leisure industry is well supplied with technologies and products to help them achieve this.
There is some concern however that the lack of new design and build pools is contributing to an increasing shortage of people with the appropriate skills in our industry. Are skilled staffs leaving to work in other industries? Are new staff being trained as thoroughly as they might have been in the past?
Sauna and steam.
This year’s survey reported a 50% increase in the actual number of steam and sauna installations sold but the numbers are still relatively small. Respondents comments did seem to indicate a strong increase in enquiries regarding steam rooms and steam showers.
This sector of our industry is still growing and is seen by the media to be more accessible than it was in the past however it is still to really grab the public attention and pass the tipping point over into a mainstream choice.
Argos, B&Q and Homebase are all selling saunas; all below the £3,000 price point and all the models on offer are Infrared saunas.
It’s also worth pointing out that only 50% of respondents offer their customers sauna and people are not going to buy what they haven’t seen.
Finally we would like to take a closer look at the geographic regions, the South East, South West and the Midlands.
32% of respondents operate in the South East.
They are much more likely to be involved in the pool sector than the survey average and they focus on refurbishment, service and repairs even more than the rest of the UK. This is the same picture of the region as we drew from last year’s survey results.
Commercial contracts are twice as important to businesses here than the UK average.
23% of respondents operate in the South West.
60% of the respondents from the South West are involved in the steam and sauna sector, which is more than the survey average.
18% of respondents operate in the Midlands.
Hot tubs and spas are particularly strong in this region and 40% of the respondents have seen growth in the spa market over the year.
10% of respondents operate in the North.
These tend to be slightly smaller businesses in terms of staff size and they are mostly typically spas and sauna, but this is another region that isn’t looking to mind their budget as all the sales were reported to be either top-end or in the middle of the price range.
Barely 2% of the survey responses are from businesses operating in Scotland.
Within this admittedly small sample, sauna and steam are as important as spas and hot tubs. All of the sales are reported to be mid-range when it comes to price and there is little refurbishment work being done. Perhaps Scotland had a smaller stock of pools to begin with.
5.5% of the survey respondents operate in Ireland.
All of these businesses see sauna as being equally important as the pool and spa sector. Once again, it is a region where customers are apparently only looking at top-end and mid-price installations.
There are retrofit and refurbishment projects being undertaken in the region.
9% of the survey respondents operate in Wales.
All the businesses that took part in the survey worked with a mixture of both domestic and commercial clients with middle price spas being the strongest and most rapidly growing part of their business.