State of the Industry 2013: Retail (Part II)

Cailley Hammel Headshot

About two months ago, we asked retailers across the country to fill out a survey about how their businesses fared in 2012. We asked you about the products you sell, what’s doing well (and not so well), how the Internet is impacting your business and why you do what you do. 

Part I featured our introduction and just a few of our findings. Below you’ll find the rest of our retail report.

Thank you to everyone who participated in our survey. If you have any thoughts on the survey or ideas for next year’s edition, please email [email protected].


What products surprised you with strong sales last year?

word cloud to show the pool products with the strongest sales last yearCheck out this word cloud for a visual representation of what you said — the bigger the word, the more common it was as a response. In particular, we noticed a trend toward more expensive hot tub models and aboveground pools, as well as saunas and automatic pool cleaners.

Conversely, products with poorer sales performance included swim spas, lower-end hot tub models, toys and patio furniture. In addition, while higher end aboveground pools saw strong sales, the aboveground category as a whole was frequently indicated as a weak point.

MAP Pricing

One of the biggest issues impacting retailers: minimum advertised pricing. The problem in a nutshell: Retailers say e-tailers are allowed to sell for less than wholesale price, and that practice threatens traditional retail by encouraging Internet-savvy customers to turn to the web for more of their pool and spa needs. (To read more about this subject, visit and search for “MAP pricing.”)

Luckily, when asked about the severity of the threat, the majority of our respondents (42.3 percent) say it’s a “serious, but manageable threat.”

How big of a threat is Internet competition to your business?

An annoyance: “We have scripted policies so our staff knows exactly how to handle Internet comparisons. Because of this policy and heavy training we give our staff, 9/10 times we still make the sale.”

pie chart showing how much of a threat internet competition is to spa retailers

Serious, but manageable: “Our belief is that our business must become a hybrid entity to survive.”

Half of survey respondents who say their business is getting weaker say the Internet threatens the survival of their businesses. In the other two categories (stronger, unchanged), the majority of respondents said the Internet is a serious but manageable threat.

How do you feel about MAP pricing?

“It’s usually a good thing. Helps keep people competitive. Unfortunately there is no real bite in the threats if you don’t follow it. Most manufacturers will close their eyes if they feel the amount of sales is increasing on their end.”

“If manufacturers and distributors do not follow their own rules and cut the throats of their own dealers, not only is this unethical and a conflict of interest, but how do they expect MAP pricing to work or keep dealers? It is really difficult to have a good business relationship with someone when, because of greed, they are stabbing you in the back.”

“I think that if we as an industry were to train and develop better sales people, this would not even be an issue.”

“Everything should be MAP priced, and you should be banned from selling the item if you sell below MAP in brick-and-mortar stores or on the Internet.” 

photo of an iphone

Do you retail online?

47.9% - No (and we don’t plan to) “We are a local business and take care of our own first.”

31.0% - No (but we’re considering it) “We are rebuilding our website and would like to accept retail orders and payments online.”

21.1% - Yes“My entire store is now online, we have a mobile version as well. We also have coded lock boxes outside the store, which allows customers to pick up their products after hours. They simply make their purchase, we email them the locker number and 4-digit code. This allows them to come anytime at their convenience. Anything I can do to compete with Amazon, I will.”

Online Reviews

Being a business owner these days means maintaining your reputation both in the shop and online. Luckily, the majority of our survey respondents haven’t been hit with a negative review online.

Has your company ever been affected by a negative review on a website like Yelp or Angie’s List?

77.5% - No 22.5% - Yes

Here’s how one dealer resolved the situation:

“We replied and resolved the issue. The customer has continued to shop with us. The key here is to reply so people online know you care enough to fix it!”


Business is all about getting your name out there. Luckily, retailers are getting more and more savvy about marketing, especially with the help of e-mail correspondence and social media.

graph of social media networks that spa retailers participate in

How often do you send email correspondence to your customers?

chart of spa retailers who send email correspondence

“Why do you do what you do?”

These were just some of the reasons people say they joined — and have stuck with — the pool and spa industry.

“I do everything I do for my family and my employees. Everyone depends on me and that drives me personally. Also, I actually kind of enjoy the pool business.”

“It serves a need in our community.”

“The gratification received from making people the heck out of selling insurance, caskets, or being a circus clown.”

Do you think social media participation is worthwhile for pool and spa retailers?

No: “Not sure. I think you can spend too much time giving advice with little or no return.”

chart of spa retailers who send email correspondence

Yes: “I don’t know how Facebook works but I do get customers from it...weird stuff...”

Yes: “Yes. Consumers are shopping everywhere nowadays EXCEPT in the store.”

Yes: “Negligible impact. We see it as more of a long-term, brand establishment tool.”

Miss Part I of the Retail State of the Industry results? Click here. 

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