2024 AQUA 100 Winner: Hydra Hot Tubs & Pools

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All photos courtesy Frank Zayas Photography

Z72 2669Hydra Hot Tubs & Pools was formed by the merging of two companies: Hot Tub Loft and Absolute Installations. The Hot Tub Loft was focused on hot tub sales, making most of its revenue from home shows. “It was a tough environment and lifestyle, with the majority of sales happening from fall to spring,” says Clay Norman, one of four managing partners (alongside Peter Steiner, Rod Mclean and Jason Jones) at Hydra Hot Tubs & Pools, located in Fort Mill, S.C.

Absolute Installations, on the other hand, did installs and service, and sold aboveground pools during the summer. “It seemed what one company had, the other lacked, and when one company was busy, the other wasn’t as busy. So when we merged to form Hydra Hot Tubs & Pools in 2017, it just so happened to be the perfect fit of skills and sales,” says Norman, “and now, we’re busy year round.”

“Setting clear and consistent expectations is the best way to support our customers and provide excellent service. It’s all about anticipating the problem in this digital age.” —Clay Norman, Managing Partner

The company has two locations that are completely different. “One we own, and the other we rent,” says Norman. “The Fort Mill rental space was Hydra’s first location, so we went with a warehouse feel — stack it deep, sell it cheap.” The store’s large rolling doors create an open-air experience, which made staying open throughout the pandemic safer and more appealing to customers. “We also showcase our hardcover, plug-and-play tubs at this store, and have two aboveground pools filled with water at all times.”

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The goal of Hydra’s second location was to provide a different experience, hoping to reach a new base of customers. “The Rock Hill location is our swim spa superstore,” explains Norman. “It’s a beautiful store that houses most of our higher-priced inventory.” The showroom keeps technology top-of-mind with digital signage instead of traditional print, and large screen televisions which can frequently change messaging and imagery.

“We also have hidden quote pages on our website that have pricing, videos of installations, recommendations and the start-to-finish installation process,” says Norman. “We use DocuSign to send our contracts and agreements to those who don’t want to return to the retail location after shopping around.” In fact, the company is seeing an increase in customers who purchase without ever setting foot in their stores. Customers are able to access information, make decisions, choose upgrades and complete their purchase digitally, all from the comfort of their home.

Hydra Hot Tubs & Pools continues to do home shows which, alongside referrals, have always been the best conversion for its marketing dollars. “Social media is also a great way to engage with past and future customers,” says Norman. “We recently experimented with TikTok, and currently have one video with over 5.6 million views, 65,000 shares, and over 90,000 likes.”

As the business continues to grow and evolve, Norman says they stay grounded in the company’s mission statement: “We bring relaxation to the Carolinas by providing fun and easy hydrotherapy services while giving back to our community.” And they have certainly put that statement into action. For every pool or spa sold, Hydra donates to the local humane society. As a pet-friendly store, the company’s Dog Wall showcases customers’ dogs (and some cats), and can be found at both locations.

Hydra Hot Tubs & Pools is also staying nimble and ready to move with the market as it adjusts and corrects itself during the ensuing slow down after Covid. “Our focus moving forward is streamlining our procedures and improving our consistency and efficacy, with the hopes that our owners can continue to shift from boots on the ground into more supervisory roles,” says Norman. “These knees can only lift so many more hot tubs.”

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