Spas and hot tubs.

“Summer is here and us Brits love nothing more than soaking up the sunshine outdoors while we can. While decent weather is never guaranteed, that hasn’t stopped eager shoppers from snapping up a slightly more unconventional garden accessory – the luxurious hot tub.” So said The Mirror newspaper in July 2019.

The article went on to list half a dozen inflatable spas, all of them selling for a few hundred pounds. These may well be entry-level hot tubs, but they are called ‘entry level’ for a reason.

Hot tubs and spas have become mainstream. They are on display in out of town supermarkets and easy to find on the Internet. What was a little quirky is now something that people are comfortable with. For reasons of fashion, fun or wellbeing, the hot tub experience is something more and more people want a part of.

What is interesting is that the majority of the public see a spa as a commodity. That is, they talk about hot tubs and spas, not about for instance, Caldera, Master Spas or Hydropool. (Jacuzzi has become a generic term for the public.) From a consumer’s point of view, strong brands give people more confidence, particularly with high-ticket sales, and they act as a barrier to ‘cheap imports.’

“Most people buy from the internet, we don’t even get a chance to quote. We get asked after they’ve purchased to install or repair, which we decline.”

Swimming pools.

This years Survey showed growth in new builds, indoor pools in particular, and this against an economic background where people were delaying big purchases and investments due to uncertainty over BREXIT.

Austerity and uncertainty have certainly had an influence on commercial pools as well and hopefully next year will see that sector begin to show growth once again.

From an upgrade and refurbishment point of view, the range of products available to make installations more energy efficient, more eco friendly – in terms of chemicals and consumables – and to reduce the amount of time owners have to invest in pool maintenance and upkeep is constantly growing and as the public becomes aware of these options, the maintenance and refurbishment side of the pool business will surely continue to increase.

“Our turnover is mainly servicing and refurbishments with new build maybe 30% of turnover but 2019 turnover for new build was 80%.”

Sauna and steam.

Swim spas have been this year’s dark horse showing strong growth in sales.

Steam showers and steam rooms have shown a similar increase in popularity while saunas have remained at roughly the same level as last year.

“There seems to be a growing awareness with customers on the benefits of sauna and steam which has helped sales plus the wellness sector continues to flourish meaning we are seeing a growth in some of our larger and higher value products.”

Breakdown by region:

South East.

33% of respondents operate in the South East.

They are more likely to employ 10 or more staff than the survey average and significantly more likely to be building and refurbishing pools. They faired better then most over the last year with 65% reporting a Good year.

South West.

20% of respondents operate in the South West.

There are more smaller businesses in the South West with 65% of respondents employing 5 staff or less. Swimming pools are a very important sector in this region and commercial business is more than usually common.

Midlands.

22% of respondents operate in the Midlands.

Bigger businesses are much more common in this region with more than half the respondents employing 10 people or more. Customers and clients in the Midlands are overwhelmingly a mixture of both commercial and domestic – 82% compared to the national average of 66%.

Business in 2019 was much harder in the Midlands with 24% of businesses having a difficult year.

North.

11% of respondents operate in the North.

Businesses in the North are smaller than the Survey average with over 80% employing less than 5 people. Almost half their business is domestic compared to the third, which is the Survey average.

Hot tub sales appear to have been growing in this region almost twice as strongly as the UK average and all the sales were reported to be either top-end or in the middle of the price range.

Scotland.

3% of the survey responses are from businesses operating in Scotland.

None of these businesses employed more than 10 people, none of them reported their business to be purely domestic; it was all a mixture of domestic and commercial customers.

Ireland.

3% of the survey respondents operate in Ireland.

They are smaller businesses working predominantly in the spa and sauna sectors. Sauna has traditionally been strong in Ireland.

Wales.

6% of the survey respondents operate in Wales.

All the businesses operating in this region worked with a mixture of both domestic and commercial clients with middle price spas being the strongest part of their business.