The coronavirus pandemic created a perfect storm in the hot tub industry — sales have skyrocketed, but so have lead times. As hot tub retailers figure out how to navigate these unforeseen highs and challenges, they are looking for ways to go from boom to boost, instead of boom to bust.
What does that mean exactly? Instead of solely focusing on how to make money during this hot tub boom, look for ways to leverage the influx to boost your brand in the long run. While hot tubs are top-of-mind and inquiries still high, now is the perfect time to position your business as the expert source for not just hot tub needs, but overall health and wellness.
The early rush to buy hot tubs was likely because people needed entertainment for themselves and their children while they were stuck at home. With that initial stage over, hot tub retailers have the opportunity to capitalize on the potential second wave of buyers — people dealing with the stress and side effects of a more permanent societal change. It may be a long time before the routine of going to school, church or the gym is comfortable for most — those practices that keep mind, body and soul healthy. It’s not just a sales tactic when we tout the health benefits of hot tubs; we offer a product that can improve well-being and now is the perfect time to drive home how a hot tub can help.
Additionally, 2020 has caused customers to be less picky as in recent years about their hot tub features. Instead of handpicking colors and features, out of necessity customers are asking what you have available right now. While this won’t last forever, take advantage of the hot tub shortage by moving customers into the high-end features that will improve their overall experience. Upgraded water care systems are the best place to start. By tackling what traditionally is the No. 1 concern people have when buying a hot tub, you not only give them the best experience possible, but increase your margins as well. It improves your short-term revenue, but also long-term prospects with referrals and repeat customers.
“More than ever, we are seeing a spike in homeowners requesting hot tub upgrades, specifically around water quality,” says Steve Berens, CEO of Clear Comfort, a company that makes advanced oxidation (AOP) sanitation systems for pool and hot tub water. “In these stressful times, it’s important for people to have a safe, healthy and enjoyable home escape.”
For instance, moving your customers to the Clear Comfort CCW50 AOP Spa Sanitation System can enhance their experience, allowing them to spend more time enjoying their spa rather than maintaining it. The odorless water feels more comfortable, allowing users to stay in the water longer.
“As a company we decided to be proactive in making our team available to our customers as much as possible, working within the ever-changing set of guidelines established by the state government,” says Wes Humbert, general manager of Goodall Pools & Spas, which has five retail stores in Pennsylvania. “We kept our team active at all of our locations to handle the myriad of phones calls related to pool and spa care. Additionally, we utilized additional staff to handle the host of inquiries related to questions about potential pools for families desiring to stay at home this year. What normally would be hundreds of leads for new pools turned into literally thousands of potential customers all asking for information on how to provide a backyard oasis for their families to enjoy. Indications are that this home nesting focus will continue into at least the near future. For our industry that has been a great opportunity for the public to gain a better understanding of the long-term value of having their own pool, spa or swim spa.”
Data shows that the coronavirus has refocused consumers on their personal health — and how they can achieve that at home. As people start to view the pandemic as a long-term change in their lives and not a short-term inconvenience, health and wellness will most likely become an even higher priority. According to RetailMeNot, on average searches for vitamin brands increased 169% in March, compared to the same time last year. At-home fitness companies also saw a surge, like connected fitness company Peloton, which saw first quarter revenue go up 66% and paid digital subscribers 64%. What people surround themselves with and put in their body will be closely monitored, which presents an opportunity for spa dealers to raise awareness of their brand and the health benefits hot tubs offer.
“WQW is a nonprofit serving post 9-11 veterans and their families,” King says. “As many of the ‘guests’ are wounded veterans, they are very cognitive of what they expose themselves to and having water without a lot of chemicals was our challenge.”
After trying liquid chlorine and bromine, King finally installed a Clear Comfort system on the small pool and spa at the ranch. “They haven’t added chlorine or bromine to the hot tub for over a year and only once did we have to shock the pool in that time. The water has been crystal clear with no chlorine or bromine at all. Maintaining the pH is the only time they add anything to the water.”
But it’s not just people with preexisting conditions who are concerned with their chemical exposure. Customers are becoming more and more health conscious in general — and these upgrades can differentiate your brand.
Other health-conscious upgrades include products that make monitoring the spa (for the dealer or the customer) easier. Almost every hot tub brand now offers some version of Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or app connectivity for monitoring and music. The less brainpower a person has to use to maintain the hot tub, the more relaxation they will associate with its purchase and use.
Embracing health and wellness marketing messages are increasingly important, but also more precarious than ever before. Retailers need to strike the right balance of being helpful and concerned versus the perception of trying to make a buck off a global tragedy. An earnest desire to educate and assist seen across all your marketing channels can endear you to your community.
“People crave knowledge from experts in the industry,” Humbert says. “They want to know that their pool or spa is truly a safe place for their family. There is certainly a wealth of information available online, but for many people it is overwhelming and contradictory. A conversation with our trained professionals, whether it was in person or over the phone, seems to be even more important during this time of uncertainty.”