2024 State of the Industry: Retail Report

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The pool and spa retail sector has seen a lot of growth in recent years, as homeowners have invested in their backyard spaces more than ever before. Dealers have been resilient, adjusting to changing market conditions and predicting inventory with great accuracy.

After reporting a huge increase in sales, however, it now appears the surge has officially crested and demand has leveled off. In fact, in 2020, at the height of the pandemic period, 82% of survey respondents reported an increase in sales. Now, only 35% of dealers reported an increase in their 2023 revenues. In 2020, 1% of retailers reported a decrease in sales, while this year, that number rose to 47%, up 22% from last year alone.

Of course, a decrease in demand means a greater chance for prompt product delivery and shorter wait times. Sixty-four percent of pool and spa retailers report it's not a problem to get inventory, and the majority of wait times for hot tubs, specifically, are no more than one month (read the hot tub section below).

Despite existing challenges like labor, government restrictions, and sourcing new customers, it appears dealers are confident heading into the 2024 busy season, as the majority of survey respondents (47%) reported they feel optimistic about the year ahead. That's the thing about pool and spa retailers, though — they continue to rise to any occasion and adapt to new circumstances.

Thank you to all those who participated in this year's survey. Your insights help us to understand the dynamics of the pool/spa retail landscape and are invaluable as we gain a deeper understanding of what shapes this crucial sector of our industry. We invite you to dive into the 2024 Retail Report, and reflect on the findings of another momentous year.

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In the Showroom

A well-thought-out showroom is important. Not only does it provide a better experience for customers, new and old, it allows them to visualize how products will look and function in their own spaces. We found that 80% of survey respondents changed out displays in the last year, helping to rotate merchandise and point customers in the right direction.

This year in retail trends, the spa was king, as 54% of retailers reported hot tubs are the most popular outdoor item in their showroom. Grills, on the other hand, were the most popular in 12% of survey respondents. As for pricing, dealers (87%) continue to adjust prices to compensate for higher costs.

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The Customer

The ability to turn customers into repeat buyers — and prevent them from switching to a competitor — is important. We asked survey respondents why their customers stay, and they pointed to key values like "because we are family-owned, honest and educated."

These loyal customers can help to garner referrals and positive customer reviews. As such, 65% of survey respondents reported Google is the best channel to collect customer reviews, with emails coming in second at 47%.

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Both recruitment and retention issues continue to plague the industry, and the retail sector is no exception. Survey respondents describe the hiring process as "exhausting, frustrating and impossible." But some remain positive, with words of encouragement, including "adventurous, hopeful and exciting."

Retailers have found that a referral program for employees is a helpful way to recruit new talent, and the majority has put a rewards program in place for each referral that works out, which includes anything from a sizable bonus to paid-time off.

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The Hot Tub Section

When speaking with retailers, we love to hear how customers' lives are changed from the wellness benefits of hot tubs, and even more so over the past few years. Supply problems have vastly improved from pandemic-level demand, as 45% of survey respondents report wait times are no more than one month (a nice increase from 24% in 2021).

It appears that customers are prioritizing bather capacity as their No. 1 priority when selecting a hot tub, while hydrotherapy/rehabilitation options and ease of use fall close behind. We also asked dealers to select what accessories were trending high this past year. Spa steps, cover lifters and covers earned the top three slots, while umbrellas/canopies (14%) and privacy screens (5%) ranked at the bottom.

We continue to track how industry professionals feel the swim spa sector is doing, and the demand remains high. Seventy-one percent of respondents feel the demand for swim spas — which offer a great alternative to inground pools and exercise benefits — has grown.

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