Your Hot Tub Here

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There's no question that the backyard-living boom is fully underway. Whether purchased from high-end, to-the-trade-only vendors (Scalamandre has a line of Sunbrella upholstery), or from a budget-priced, big-box merchandiser, everything the homeowner needs to outfit an outdoor living space is now readily available. And the furniture, grills, water features and accessories come in every imaginable style and price point.

Once a trend survives past the fad stage, marketers get busy trying to quantify, describe and dissect it, and the outdoor-living trend is no exception. Several recent studies conducted on behalf of industries with interests in the backyard paint a picture of growth and opportunity. Results of the Laneventure Designing Out survey, published in the February edition of Casual Living, show that upscale homeowners are prime customers for all things backyard. Among upscale households, 35 percent already have a finished outdoor room. Of those, nearly half report that they update their outdoor spaces seasonally. Among those who do not yet have an outdoor room, 34 percent plan to design and furnish one in the next 12 months. Studies by the grill manufacturer Weber and the propane trade association confirm the trend.

Perhaps of most interest to AQUA readers is the recently completed study commissioned by the Association of Pool and Spa Professionals, which provides the quantitative foundation for the trade association's ongoing initiative to develop and stimulate markets for its membership. The results show encouraging opportunity for New research shows growth opportunities for hot tubs and pools placing more hot tubs in more backyards and suggest some strategies the industry can use to serve up a bigger slice of the backyard-makeover pie.

Backyard Influencers

The study, conducted by Atlanta-area market-research firm P.K. Data, queried landscape professionals who had recently completed a residential backyard project. The study found that landscape professionals are devoting more and more time to outdoor living environments. Nearly all agreed it was a very important direction for their work, and some said they could devote their entire business to it.

The consumers polled for this survey all had recently completed a backyard redesign that included a new pool and/or hot tub. The largest group (64 percent) spent between $25,000 and $50,000 on the project. About one-third of the group spent between $50,000 and $100,000 and 2 percent spent over $100,000.

The study's authors make some conservative estimates regarding the potential to recruit new hot tub owners. "The collective estimate of the trade professionals in our survey was that 15 to 20 percent of backyard makeovers include a new pool or hot tub," the study notes. The authors calculate — using the lowest numbers in the ranges, and based on 550,000 backyard makeovers — that as much as 14 percent of pools and hot tubs sold in the United States are being purchased as part of a comprehensive backyard makeover.

Tracking The Trends

The backyard professionals polled for the study shared their observations on trends. Much of what they said is not news to AQUA readers — vanishing-edge pools, camouflaged or hidden hot tubs, smaller pools — but one item bears repeating. The idea of an integrated, coordinated, unified outdoor room is paramount. No one wants a grill plopped over here and the hot tub stuck over there. "Real design today makes everything work together," said one designer.

"Having a kitchen just there by itself is such a waste — it might as well be indoors. I always combine huge grills and service areas with trees and potted plants to combine into this totally organic motif," saids another landscape pro.

Another message from the backyard-makeover research — the importance of product awareness and experience — is worth emphasizing. Said one backyard professional, "Almost anyone who says 'no' to a hot tub has never been in one."

Bearing that out, the study found that all of the homeowners who included a hot tub or pool in their original planning stages had previously owned one.

Catching Clients

The study demonstrates that backyard makeovers are providing a new and important gateway to increased hot tub and pool sales. The 15 to 20 percent of projects that did not originally include plans for a hot tub or pool are of particular interest. How many other homeowners out there simply haven't considered including a hot tub in their backyard makeovers. Try checking with local landscape architects and upscale landscape designers and contractors to find out.

Getting To The Backyard

The key findings from the study include:

• Anecdotal confirmation from landscape professionals that the outdoor-room trend is growing rapidly; in some cases, the amount of a practice devoted to backyard makeovers is doubling each year.

• About two-thirds of the respondents added a pool, about one-third added a hot tub and a few added both.

• Over 20 percent of the new-spa homeowners added a spa after the process was underway. Nearly 15 percent of the new-pool homeowners had not originally planned to include a pool. All these homeowners said that the designer or contractor was influential in the decision to add the pool or hot tub. Many simply had not considered it until the backyard professional introduced the idea.

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