One short-lived, COVID-induced change I saw was customers willing to give up on quality and choices for whichever hot tub could be delivered the fastest. The main concern was speed of delivery versus purchasing what features they truly wanted. That trend switched and customers realize they may have to wait six months to get what they truly are hoping for. The rush is not there, and they are switching back to choosing quality over speed.
I believe retailer lead times will be extended for the next 18 to 24 months. This is not necessarily due to an increased demand at this point — manufacturers are still experiencing logistics issues and are desperately trying to catch up from the higher demand of the last 24 months. We will eventually go back to placing orders the way we did pre-pandemic, but that return is a way down the recovery pathway. To keep happy customers, I have increased stock levels to double what I have held in the days before the pandemic.
The pandemic has also seen an increase of retailers moving to a virtual selling system for many things related to hot tubs. Although this certainly does fill a need for some, we are losing on the customer interaction side. The personal touch in hot tub support is very important, from water testing to listening to the customer and their concerns. Sometimes the easiest way to ensure success is to have a face-to-face in the store, or through a video or phone call.