Behind on orders, one store got creative to keep sales rolling
Customers stuck at home during the pandemic are buying hot tubs in lieu of vacations. In the past, our hot tub business had mostly been done by custom orders, with the occasional sale of floor models. But when our hot tub manufacturer shut down in March, we were unwittingly prepared: We had placed larger truckload orders at our dealer meetings earlier in the year. What we were not prepared for, however, was the backlog that would hit once they reopened, at which point we started receiving monthly emails regarding lead times.
At first, these came with minimal extended periods, but when they started reaching 30- and 40-week lead times, we had to do something. We were behind the eight ball in comparison to other dealers who had multiple spa trucks on order.
We ended up placing orders for three spa trucks, each two weeks after the other. We’d never done this before because in the past, our customers liked to choose their spa colors. As the person who places all orders for our business, pre-ordering three full truckloads of spas was daunting. Not only did I have to figure out what models to order, but also the color combinations for each model, and how to best split these color combinations to avoid having too many of the exact same hot tub. What worked best was simply pulling our hot tub sales records for the past couple years and choosing colors based on top choices from our manufacturer.
When we placed these orders, we fell into a 45-week lead time. At this point, we had been completely sold out of hot tubs for a few months — and this extremely lengthy waiting period for stock models seemed like a nail in the coffin of 2020. We had to get creative in our sales and came up with special “while you wait” packages that included fire pits, zero-gravity chairs and corn hole boards (or bag boards, for those of you not from the Midwest). These packages were actually freebies we offered for customers who reserved units off our pre-ordered spa trucks. We wanted customers to know we greatly appreciate them. Crazily enough, it worked. Until 2020, I’d never sold something a customer would not be receiving for months.
Between the end of last year and start of this year, our manufacturer became better prepared for the onslaught of hot tub orders and started planning accordingly. Each dealer was allocated a certain number of hot tubs for 2021. This helped weed out dealers who placed orders for more hot tubs than they had sold in multiple years combined. Once these allocations rolled out, we got updated lead times for a few of the models ordered and our first full spa truck. These hot tubs were moved up from an anticipated July delivery to a March timeframe. After numerous disappointments, we finally had good news to share with customers.
Going forward, we are anticipating all of our 2021 hot tub sales to be stock or pre-order models. Gone, for now, are the days of the custom order, but we are still anticipating another busy year.