Will 2012 Bring More Business To The Pool And Spa Industry?

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Scott WebbWell, I'm glad that's over with. Economically, 2011 will be categorized along with the two or three before it under a single heading . . . help me here . . . malaise? . . . melancholy? . . . funk?

I still talk to some people who are selling lots of big pools to the relatively few people who can afford them, and a lot of service guys tell me they're doing just fine, but the rest of us have been muddling through for several years now, getting enough business to put dinner on the table, with perhaps a little bit left over for dessert. Not much dessert. A small slice of pie. Definitely no whipped cream.

I think 2012 will be slightly better — just slightly. There's pent-up demand, lower consumer debt and many companies have cash to spend, but most economists I've read are putting growth at a sallow two-point-something, which isn't enough to make anyone feel good. But it's better than another recession.

The problems are widely documented. Consumers are never going to get truly comfortable until we find a firm bottom to the housing market so they can be absolutely sure of the equity they have in their homes. (I have no idea what I could truly get for my house. None.)

And in the absence of encouragement from consumers, corporate America remains timid for obvious reasons. In an atmosphere where anything may come out of Washington — onerous new employee healthcare burdens, major changes in the tax code, added regulatory hurdles — the natural inclination is caution and prudence.

At the same time, nobody knows what will happen to the euro, which has been slowly rolling toward the edge of a cliff for many months (I say it eventually goes over.) Regardless of what happens, nearly every continental economist is forecasting recession next year.

Why do we care? Because we sell stuff there. Even the pool and spa industry sells in Europe now. A loss of European sales is a drag on American companies trying to build momentum out of our own recession.

Still, taking everything together (and when I say everything, that includes our natural American economic vitality which can only be suppressed by government fools for so long) my hunch is we do a little bit better this year.

Scott Webb

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