Watkins redesigns portable Endless Pools
When Watkins Wellness purchased Endless Pools, there was much anticipation among its dealers and the industry as to what the company would do with the brand’s portable swim spas. At the manufacturer’s dealer conference in January 2016, Watkins’ partners had their first opportunity to see the answer.
“We had kept everything under wraps; nobody knew what we were doing,” says Ryan Landwehr, business manager for aquatic fitness at Watkins. “We had been in full design mode for nine months. We had two working models and couldn’t wait to put that in front of our dealer group.”
The response was precisely what Landwehr and the rest of the Watkins team were hoping for. As dealers walked into the pavilion, which held all the company’s products from across its brands, Landwehr says you could see their eyes shoot over to the new Endless tubs.
“Before we were hoping for swim spas that didn’t look awkward in the backyard,” says Joe Mahoney, owner of Capital Hot Tubs in the Washington D.C. area. “But what they’ve been able to do is make it look like it belongs there. It’s got great fit and finish, and stylistically it looks awesome.”
Mahoney, who has sold swim spas off and on for 30 years, says the Endless Pools brand recognition helps customers make their final decision. “It’s not that people are willing to pay more for the brand name, it’s just that they feel more confident when they’re familiar with the brand,” Mahoney says. “That’s helped us tremendously.”
The challenge for Watkins was preserving the legacy and innovations of the existing Endless product and blending it into the Watkins aesthetic.
“Design has become such a large part of what we do,” Landwehr says, mentioning the Hot Spring NXT and Caldera Utopia series, which were both released in the last several years. “You look at these [swim spas] and they’re big, they’re tall. Somebody’s putting them in their backyard and it doesn’t matter if you’re in North Dakota or Southern California — nobody wants to look at a big square box that doesn’t mesh with their overall backyard design. That’s the opportunity we looked to seize. Based on the reaction from the market, we’ve accomplished that.”
Watkins has split Endless Pools into two business groups: The original Endless Pool, still manufactured in Pennsylvania and sold direct. Under Endless Pools Fitness Systems are two portable swim spa lines: Endless Pools Fitness Systems, which features a propulsion system; and SwimCross by Endless Pools, which are jetted models. These two lines are sold through dealers. The majority of the products are made at Watkins’ facilities, with the exception of the propulsion mechanism, which continues to be made in Pennsylvania.
Watkins overhauled the portable lines, starting with the exterior. Each has horizontal siding that comes in woodlike brown or a metallic gray. The propulsion units have a line of teal exterior lights on a four-hour timer.
“Our color scheme — the grays, the teals — was very thought out,” Landwehr says. “Those weren’t chosen because they look good together; they had meaning in terms of backyard design, how we live our lives, what they do for people.” Those colors, he says, are energetic and inspiring to people looking to start a new fitness routine, lose weight or seek better life balance.
The propulsion system, on which the original Endless Pools built its brand, is in custom housing, not hidden behind the shell. “Let’s be proud of it, let’s show what makes this such a unique product,” Landwehr says.
Though Capital Hot Tubs has sold swim spas for many years, Mahoney says it’s only been in the last five that he has taken a more serious approach to the product as he’s seen that market improve. Watkins’ purchase of Endless encouraged him even more.
“Watkins is part of Masco, which is a big multimillion- or billion-dollar company — they do their research,” Mahoney says. “So if they see swim spas as an emerging market and they want to make a huge investment in it, that convinces me — and that’s something we want to be involved in.”
“We’re an Endless Pools dealer, so part of our expansion effort is to make sure all our locations have that product line on display. We’re stepping up to make sure we’re walking with [Watkins] down that road and that all our stores have operational displays so we can take advantage of that growing market.”
Mark Henderson, owner, Pool World
Read more about his company’s expansion here.