Larger retail chain places big orders, keeps showrooms full
When shutdowns began, seasonal business was already slow for Litehouse Pools & Spas. While the 14 Ohio stores didn’t have to close completely, regional sales manager Al Eckert says the company cut hours and pay for employees and accepted voluntary layoffs.
Website sales took off, Eckert says, with customers ordering for delivery and curbside pickup. “They were buying pools and spas off our web store,” he says. “They could literally add [a spa] to their cart if they were within our delivery market,” Eckert adds. Every time a person hit the website, that lead would be sent to their closest store for follow-up, no store visit required.
Once the stores were allowed to open again, all precautions were taken. Plexiglass was installed at checkout counters; floor stickers encouraged social distancing; and employees wore masks.
Around the start of the busy season each year, Litehouse has a customer appreciation sale that spans two days, but this year they spread the sale over two weeks to avoid an influx of customers, Eckert says. “We put [information about the sale] on our website and started hitting the phones,” he says. “It’s a very popular sale and we were getting hundreds of calls in April asking when the sale would be.”
Because Lighthouse predicted the uptick in sales and placed orders early, some models are readily available for delivery, or are only oversold by one or two, so lead times aren’t long. In the aftermath of forced closures, manufacturers began telling Eckert they could not fulfill orders as fast as normal. “Once we heard that, we started getting our orders in early to offset that a bit,” he says.
Since then, truckloads of spas have been delivered consistently, from two to three deliveries a week to biweekly. Some models Litehouse carries are still oversold by 60 or more. “We’ve already bought a lot of our spas for next year,” Eckert says. “And if we placed a special order today, the earliest we’ll probably see one is June or July of next year. So we’re really pushing the stock spas we’ve already committed to.”
The company has chosen not to sell display models. “We knew if we sold our floor models that we’d have 15 empty showrooms,” Eckert says. “One thing we committed to is keeping all the spas on the floor, and that’s served us well.”
Litehouse management predicts hot tub sales will still be up in 2021, with more supply available both for Litehouse and its competitors. “We realized we could have sold a lot more spas if they were readily available,” he says. “So we want to make sure we at least have spas available and, if the business comes, we’ll be ready for it.”
All in all, Eckert says Litehouse has been blessed during this time. As of September, with 15 locations and over 150 employees, no one working for Litehouse has contracted COVID-19. “I don’t know if this virus can grow in a pool and spa store if we’re taking all the necessary precautions,” Eckert teases.