Company’s swim spas and backyard kitchens tell a compelling story for specialty retailers
By Julie Knudson
The swim spa market has seen a shift in consumer trends. “[Consumers] don’t need a big pool,” says Rob Santos, product development manager at Pomona, California–based Cal Spas. “They want something smaller, and we’re a perfect fit.” After suffering through an economy that triggered widespread resizing and re-evaluating, spa buyers are ready to explore swim spas that provide health and relaxation in an efficient, cost-comfortable footprint.
Historically, well-equipped swim spas were also large in size and price tag. Consumers liked the features of the largest swim spas on the market, but many balked at the high costs. Cal Spas saw that trend as an opportunity: “If you can offer similar value to a traditional swim spa so you don’t have to build the whole swim spa story, you can build an entertainment story and a fitness story,” Santos says. “If that’s also at a good price point, the customer is open to it.” Higher prices drive some customers to wonder why they don’t just purchase a pool. “It puts the burden on the sales staff to build that value,” Santos says.
Customer experience is key
The seven Cal Spas swim spa models share important features. Santos says the company wants customers to be satisfied with their experience, whether they’re looking for fitness benefits or entertainment. “We don’t want them to sacrifice regardless of spending,” Santos says, adding that customers should see their swim spa as a durable investment. Every swim spa features a titanium heater, for example, to minimize maintenance concerns and ensure strong performance. Standard tether and exercise equipment mounts are also included in each of the company’s units. “That’s a little different from other brands, which require the customer to buy an exercise option when they’re ordering,” Santos says.
“We’ve increased the performance aspects but also made it an easy transition spa or a hybrid fitness spa,” he says. Jet performance now sits alongside therapy and entertainment seats, and there’s a size for every backyard and budget. The largest model in the Cal Spas lineup is the Commander F-1681, which is over 16 feet long. Able to accommodate 12 people and boasting 81 jets, Santos says the F-1681 “has therapy, entertaining, fountains — anything a customer wants, it will do it.”
New drivers in backyard entertainment
Cal Spas is one of the few spa manufacturers that also has its own line of outdoor kitchens and fire pits. Santos says the decision to offer a combination of products was driven in large part by the company’s desire to empower its specialty retailers. As consumers increasingly turn to the web for research and buying opportunities, Santos says, “We wanted to reinforce that spa retailers are a specialty dealer and they offer something that online can’t.” Instead of positioning dealers as “just a spa retailer,” he says the combination of swim spas and outdoor entertainment products makes stores a home-resort destination. “More people will barbecue than will sit in a hot tub,” Santos explains. “That market is enormous, and our products enable dealers to show their differences and their services.”
Under the company’s Cal Flame banner, Cal Spas offers customers a wide range of options. “All customers have to do is pick the size and color they want, and it arrives on a pallet,” Santos says. “The dealer drives it into the backyard and an hour after delivery, they’re cooking on it.”
Dealer support online and real time
The team at Cal Spas and Cal Flame prioritize dealer support and make marketing materials easily accessible. “We have an enormous library of print material, online material, videos, training — all kinds of items,” Santos says. Each piece is designed to empower dealers in their quest to brand themselves as the top local specialty store. Online systems for ordering and warranty claims, along with a video library, offer dealers on-demand web access. Monthly newsletters and frequent contact from the internal staff at Cal Spas ensures retailers know about the latest developments and can get quick answers to any questions they may have. “We have a lot of communications,” Santos says. “We think education is key.”