Jacuzzi Hot Tubs of the Triangle | Virtual for the Win

At first anniversary, retailer sees virtual sales success

Opening a hot tub store in August 2020 looked nothing like Phoebe Briley’s previous 15 years in the industry. Briley wore many hats at her previous employer, but her real passion was selling spas.

Both of Briley’s parents have owned businesses, and she’d always enjoyed the thought of having one, too — she just wasn’t sure on the timing. “In a funny way, the pandemic gave me a preview as to what I could do if I focused solely on hot tubs,” she says.

With a master’s in fine arts, Briley says selling from home in the early stages of the pandemic for her previous employer let her tap into her creativity. Suddenly she was making record-breaking sales from her art studio in her pajamas.

“It was empowering to be able to spend the time I really wanted to with those customers and have those conversations,” she says, “even though it was on the phone or through Zoom.”

Briley says a single insight from a podcast finally spurred her toward action: “Some executive said that at a certain point, you have to assign value to what you bring to your business and you have to say, ‘Even though I like doing these other things, that’s not where my value lies,’ ” Briley recalls. “That was a big light bulb moment to say, ‘This is where I have to be fully present and not be distracted.’ ”

With unwavering support from her partner, Rani, Briley gave notice at her current job and secured retail space for Jacuzzi Hot Tubs of the Triangle in August last year. By the following month, Briley had a website and began pre-selling spas, the first of which arrived mid-November.

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Since opening, Briley has prioritized a COVID-safe showroom, with access by appointment only. Only four hot tubs are displayed to provide the best representation of the models and options available. The floor is taped off to show proper social distancing, and several Molekule air purifiers keep the air clean. Briley says the majority of her customers never request a showroom appointment, however; she mostly does Zoom chats, which she enjoys.

“People have responded positively to communicating virtually,” she says. “It’s a very low-pressure environment, and Jacuzzi has so many great digital assets available. We can accomplish a lot with screen sharing and just talking through questions. By the time I finish a 30- to 45-minute Zoom with a customer, they almost always comment on how helpful that style of shopping was.”

Briley says she closes on about 90% of her virtual sales presentations. While she admittedly looks forward to the post-COVID showroom — and the coffee bar she plans to provide — Briley is happy she’s going for it on her own.

“Business has been even better than what we had hoped for,” she says.