Expo Returns to Orlando

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Scott WebbTomorrow marks the first day of the 2014 PSP Expo. Thousands of builders, retailers and service people have ventured to the Sunshine State for the biggest pool and spa show of the year. It’s a fitting location.

Last time we were here for Expo was 2007. As we arrived in Orlando that November, the economy was just sliding into recession, but at the time, no one had any idea of the length or depth of the downturn. I remember thinking it would probably be another shallow dip. The Fed would drop the interest rates a few points and the ship would bounce back up.

RELATED: 2014 PSP Expo Show Preview

Seven economically difficult years later, as we see the pool and spa market slowly recovering from the Great Recession, this journey reminds us which state bore the brunt of the housing market collapse. The mortgage debacle of 2007-2009 hit residential construction in Florida like a hurricane, and blew away a lot of pool builders along with it. For a while afterwards, the only sounds to be heard were the waves lapping the shore.

It’s been a long, slow comeback, and there’s no comparing today’s pool market to the glorious pre-recession peaks, but there is clear evidence that the Florida pool market is on the mend. Pool building, year on year, is steadily increasing.

So it is with this backdrop of growing confidence that we gather in central Florida to have a firsthand look at the industry altogether, take its pulse, and perhaps get a glimpse of its future.

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It’s a trade that is more sophisticated than it was seven years ago. More safety-minded and energy efficient. More interested in education — this conference is packed with demonstrations, seminars and multi-day courses designed to raise the level of professionalism among all industry segments.

A couple of novel aspects of this show are signs of this post-recession age. First, the home marketing website Houzz is putting up a 2000-square-foot booth to show builders and retailers how to use the site to garner more business. The Internet is now the most powerful marketing tool we have, and Houzz has developed an effective model.

Second, this show will run alongside the APLD International Landscape Design Conference. This also is a symbol of change. I don’t know how much you’ll actually learn at the APLD pavilion — maybe a lot, maybe not — but this co-location is recognition that the way of the future is a more comprehensive, integrated approach to recreational aquatics, where people with a variety of skills come together to create the whole backyard.

This trip reminds us of some hard times in the last seven years, but also of the bright prospects growing in our future.

Scott Webb

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