It's A Wrap

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Jauregui was just one of more than 10,150 enthusiastic attendees of the 14th annual AQUA Show Conference & Expo, held November 9-11, 2004, at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas. Shattering all previous attendance records, the turnout represented buyers from a total of 2,300 spa and pool retail stores, design/build businesses, landscape firms, and pool and spa service companies from across the country and abroad.

"Everybody was very positive about the show, saying how much they enjoyed being there," agreed Brian Guy of inSPAration, Moorpark, Calif., one of the 315 exhibitors on hand to introduce new products and dealer programs. The wide array of leisure categories represented ranged from pools and spas, controls and equipment, and chemicals and covers, to construction materials, casual furniture, grills, and outdoor lighting. "We saw a lot of new people, so dealers are definitely getting the message that AQUA is the place to be," Guy added.

Aside from the opportunity to get their first glimpse of 2005 product lines and speak face-to-face with new and old suppliers, dealers were drawn to AQUA by its world-class retail conference. This year's program offered 50plus educational sessions specifically targeted to the needs of the pool and spa industry, including a dozen design/build sessions by the progressive Genesis 3 Design Group. Full conference participation was up more than 25 percent in 2004, making it by far the largest conference in AQUA's history.

"AQUA has always had much better seminars geared toward sales, marketing, merchandising and display," said Amy Barto, general manager of Barto Pool & Spa, Phoenixville, Pa., who has been attending the expo and conference from the start. "There are lots of things I've picked up over the years at the AQUA seminars that are directly responsible for the way our store is today. They have absolutely allowed us to increase sales and maintain very solid profit margins."

The retail conference was sponsored by Sundance Spas and Jacuzzi Premium, located in Chino, Calif., strong believers in the value of dealer education. Jacuzzi Premium also used the AQUA Show to unveil its brand-new line of Spa Necessities accessories this year. "We rolled out a whole new concept of after-market products for our dealers and it was very well-received," said Jim Ferguson. "We were extremely pleased with the turnout and the quality of people that attended. The show was excellent."

New to the event this year was the Genesis 3 Design Studio, a special pavilion on the show floor that hosted educational sessions, demonstrations, new product introductions, book signings by industry icons such as landscape lighting expert Janet Lennox Moyer and world-renowned landscape architect James van Sweden, consultations with feng shui master Ileana G. Davis and other Genesis 3 principals and guests, and even wine tasting.

The Genesis 3 pavilion also featured a large number of exhibitors whose wares are geared to the design/build/landscape sector of the market. "We're primarily interested in reaching high-end, innovative builders and designers, and the AQUA Show with Genesis 3 filled the bill," stated Peter Davidson of River Flow Systems in Calabasas, Calif. "They come here to learn and hone their skills, because they want to be at the top of the profession — being innovative, being creative, being the best."

Both the Genesis 3 classroom sessions and the show-floor seminars were standing-room only, and the pavilion was packed with attendees all three days of the Expo. "The foot traffic has been tremendous here," offered Tim Harris of Harris Brothers Natural Stone Imports, Marina, Calif. "AQUA and Genesis 3 is a good marriage that we're proud to be part of. It has been a huge effort on everybody's part, and it's really good for pool builders."

Sweetwater Design Group, headquartered in Jacksonville, Fla., was responsible for the design and construction of the pavilion's striking centerpiece: a large, fully operational pond environment. "Having the pond close to our booth and speakers like Anthony Archer-Wills on stage has really helped promote what we are trying to do," said Thirza Duensing, director of sales and marketing for the company, whose high-profile projects include an aquatic habitat for the National Wildlife Federation's new headquarters outside Washington, D.C. "We look forward to evolving the pond environment further for next year's show."

"The attendance and the energy and enthusiasm of the people who showed up exceeded our expectations. It couldn't have been much better," raved Brian Van Bower, president and co-founder of Genesis 3 Design Group. "There is a movement here that is absolutely wonderful — and exactly what the industry needed. The momentum will continue to build, and Genesis 3 has exciting new things that we plan to roll out for the next AQUA Show."

Many attendees arrived at AQUA a few days early to take advantage of a variety of extended training sessions that included "An Introduction to Perspective Drawing," taught by Genesis 3's David Tisherman, and AQUA's highly successful Certified Pool/Spa Operator (CPO) course, which again boasted a 100-percent pass rate, with all 70 participants receiving certification.

Among them was Jesse Roberts, owner of Roberts Pool & Spa in Omaha, Neb. "We came in early and my daughter and I got our CPO certification, and my son and daughter-inlaw attended 'Sales Day With Ray Leone' for the second time," he said. Six of the Roberts' eight children work in the family business, and they all get their advanced training at AQUA.

"We haven't really seen a need to attend any other shows; AQUA is something that's put into our plans annually because of the benefits of the education. We're here to make our business stronger, but it's also a mini-vacation that allows us to spend some time together," said Roberts, who told us his whole family enjoys the after-hours Las Vegas experience. Day one of the AQUA Show was filled with special activities, including the keynote address by legendary marketing strategist Jack Trout, best-selling author and president of the international marketing firm Trout & Partners Ltd. Trout's address was the kickoff event for AQUA's new Mega Marketing Summit, which included a full slate of marketing-focused seminars designed to help pool and spa professionals better promote their businesses. Trout's message, "Differentiate Or Die!" wasn't wasted on attending dealers.

"Jack Trout was fabulous! This guy knows his stuff and he was hitting a lot of home runs today," said Russ Gallo, owner of American Pool Construction Services in Valencia, Calif. "He discussed diversification, product lines, image and reputation, which are areas we've keyed in on. We enjoy a very good reputation in our area, we work hard to maintain it, and we're always looking for ways to enhance it," said Gallo.

Pumped up and ready to party after a successful day of show shopping, several thousand attendees turned out for AQUA's annual Industry Celebration at the world-famous House of Blues in Mandalay Bay. Fueled by spicy Cajun cuisine, complimentary beverages and high-octane entertainment by the Blues Brothers Review and Louie Louie, they danced and socialized into the night. "AQUA did a great job with the party," said Jerry Lankheet of Marquis Spas, Independence, Ore., which co-hosted the bash. "We hope to sponsor that event on an annual basis for years to come."

A Wednesday evening cocktail party at The House of Blues Foundation Room, which offers a panoramic view of Las Vegas from the 43rd floor of Mandalay Bay, feted companies receiving AQUA 100 status, as well as inductees and existing members of the AQUA 100 Hall of Fame.

Among those attending the swanky affair, hosted by GE Retail Sales Finance, was Joe Vassallo, president of Las Vegas-based Paragon Pools. "I'm very proud of the fact that we were named to the AQUA 100, because it means we are good enough to be recognized by an industry leader," he said, crediting his ongoing education at AQUA with much of his business's success. "Every one of my employees has a ticket to the AQUA Conference. For anyone who attends these seminars, it really puts them on the cutting edge."

Continuing to expand its horizons with a bigger trade show and an even more ambitious seminar program produced in partnership with Genesis 3 Design Group, the 2005 AQUA Show has been scheduled for November 1618, at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. Forward-thinking business owners are already making plans to attend.

"Every year AQUA gets better," said Jack Farley, president of Valhalla Pools and Spas, Wexford, Pa. "I'm a handson guy, I don't want to hear it over the telephone. I like to see it, touch it, talk to the people who designed it, and AQUA allows me to do that. I always get my juices pumping again and go home with new ideas. We all need to be recharged and reinvigorated."

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