The Excitement of a New Store

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Spas pose next to Finnleo's model S-870 infrared sauna. With its five-sided design and footprint of only 52-by-52-inches, it provides an attractive sauna in a small space.Spas pose next to Finnleo's model S-870 infrared sauna. With its five-sided design and footprint of only 52-by-52-inches, it provides an attractive sauna in a small space.

When Fred Bachmann originally envisioned opening a new location for his successful dealership, he saw in his mind a "gallery of spas." After attending the new store's grand opening in April, I can confirm that's exactly what he created.

There are enticing products everywhere you look, tastefully arranged with ample space between so the store retains its open, airy ambiance.

"We have three swim spas, two of those are running; we have eight hot tubs on display, all of which are up and running; and then we have nine saunas, about three out of those nine are available for testing," says Bachmann's new store manager, Jeremy Gill. "We encourage all of our customers to try out our products before purchasing them, which they can do directly on the showroom floor. I should also mention that we have two cold plunges, one is set at 55 degrees Fahrenheit for beginners and the other is set at 39 degrees for more advanced cold plungers."

With a brand new retail outlet to go with its construction and service departments, Bachmann's is creating an all-encompassing customer experience.

With the new store's ample footprint, numerous spas are displayed without a feeling of confinement.With the new store's ample footprint, numerous spas are displayed without a feeling of confinement.

ANSWERING THE CALL

Bachmann was probably destined to make his living in the recreational water industry. His name in German literally means a person who stands by water, or a person who lives by a stream. "I know it's a little corny," he admits, "but ever since I was a kid, I've loved the water. And I believe it's my life's calling."

Similar to many pool and spa dealers, Bachmann started out in the construction industry, but began working on projects that involved leisure aquatic vessels. "I got started in the spa industry in 1985 because of a construction project," he says. "We were doing a historic renovation for a hair salon, and the owner wanted to have two separate private rooms with hot tubs so that her clients could rent them out from her. In order to accommodate her request, I needed to find two hot tubs, and at this time, I thought all hot tubs were created equal… I didn't know any better.

"I started calling around, trying to get two hot tubs at wholesale prices; however, I was told right away that the only way to do that was to become a dealer and buy at least three of them at one time. I ended up doing that, and I gave the third one away to my sister. From there, one thing led to another, and I became a Watkins/Hot Spring dealer in 1986.

"I had a little bit of space in our construction building, so I showcased one hot tub on the floor. But I was quickly told that if I was going to be in the hot tub business, then I actually had to look like I was in the hot tub business. Whether it's saunas, or swim spas, or cold plunges, you have to have at least three of a singular product on your showroom floor in order to be credible."

So that's what he did — he got a property big enough to display products in sufficient quantities to sell them, and from there, it was only natural for him to fully transition into the water industry that is part of the family heritage.

One of two swim spas ready for immediate occupancy. Water in the swim spa always helps sales.One of two swim spas ready for immediate occupancy. Water in the swim spa always helps sales.

HOT TUBS AND SERVICE

From the very beginning, Bachmann's has been a Watkins dealer, but that relationship has only grown more and more trusting, confident and secure over the years. "Watkins is so family oriented, they really take care of us as dealers, and therefore, allow us to take care of our customers," says Bachmann. "The training, the backing, the warranty; they're all tools to help us be successful as dealers. Basically, Watkins won't allow you to fail. They also have products at every price range, which makes their hot tubs inclusive rather than exclusive, but it's not just about the hot tubs. It's about wellness, or making people feel holistically better every single day. It's about providing your customers with the education and service that they deserve."

Recently, Bachmann's decided to take a more exclusive approach when it comes to servicing hot tubs. "A few years ago, we decided to service only what we sell because it was becoming problematic from both an inventory and time standpoint to try and service other manufacturer's hot tubs," says Bachmann. "And it's important to note that our market is nowhere near saturated; there are still a lot of backyards that don't have hot tubs, I think it's around 3 or 4% that do have them, so the majority do not. But we do have customers who are on their third or fourth hot tub and that's where our loyalty program comes into play.

"When a customer's hot tub is like six months from going out of warranty, we send them a 'Good Karma' card. It's a little flier that informs them that their warranty is about to run out, so now would be the time to take care of anything that hasn't been 100% working lately. A lot of times, we'll be able to sell them a new hot tub under a trade-in deal, especially when Watkins came out with their salt system a few years ago. The way the water now feels when you're in it; it's unmatched. So we've been able to convince a lot of our longtime customers to trade-in their five-year-old hot tub for a brand new salt one."

Large format lifestyle signage creates an aspirational image that appeals to customers.Large format lifestyle signage creates an aspirational image that appeals to customers.

MARKET TIMING

Although the Covid-19 pandemic was terrible in so many ways, there were some upsides to it, one of them being, the market growth of the pool and spa industry.

"Our company is still experiencing growing pains that we still haven't fully recovered from, but I'm very optimistic for 2024," says Bachmann. "We expanded our business in late 2019, right before the pandemic, and when Covid hit I thought, 'Oh no, I just bankrupted us.' But it turns out, as everyone in our industry now knows, the pandemic was great for business. I quadrupled our revenue and tripled the size of our workforce. We no longer had to spend any money on advertising, so we redirected our advertising budget into our store renovations. I'm now able to look at our two, beautiful new stores and, oddly enough, thank Covid for them."

When it comes to retail floor space, the new Brookfield location is an embarrassment of riches.When it comes to retail floor space, the new Brookfield location is an embarrassment of riches.

Bachmann's new Brookfield location already has a full staff of sales, marketing and maintenance personnel, with additional part time workers in the busier, summer months. It was a true challenge, as anyone who has built and opened a new store can attest, but the feeling of satisfaction is easily worth it.

"It took a good 18 months for us to finish all the construction work," says Gill. We worked with a lady out of Seattle, Wash., to help us design everything, and then with Fred's construction background, that really brought together all the expertise we needed to get it done."

'Our company is still experiencing growing pains that we still haven't fully recovered from, but I'm very optimistic for 2024,' says Bachmann."Our company is still experiencing growing pains that we still haven't fully recovered from, but I'm very optimistic for 2024," says Bachmann.

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