Hot tub valet services deliver profits, other benefits
For many spa retailers, starting a hot tub valet service is an enticing but formidable task. Typically offered on a weekly, biweekly or monthly basis, a valet service involves sending a service technician to a customer’s house to perform routine spa maintenance jobs — filter cleaning and replacement, water testing and balancing, tub floor vacuuming, seasonal draining and filling, and the like.
The logistics of starting such a service — purchasing trucks and
equipment, hiring staff, calculating service areas, devising efficient routes
and establishing competitive pricing — can be substantial. Once initial details
are worked out, retailers find it can be worth the effort, yielding profit and
Southern Pools and Spas in Bristol, Virginia, offers a biweekly and monthly valet service to its spa customers. Before the company started its valet service, it asked customers what they’d be willing to pay.
think what we came up with was very reasonable,” says Josh Arnold, general
manager. “It has to be
cheaper than a pool cleaning because, in people’s eyes, it’s less water and
less work. Most of the time, they are right.”
The company keeps a tight service radius around its two stores in
Bristol, Virginia, and Kingsport, Tennessee. “It’s not profitable to travel long distances on the valet program,”
For Southern Pools and Spas, offering a valet service makes a lot
of sense. “It’s an extra
avenue of revenue, especially in the winter, when the pool business is gone and
things are slow,” Arnold says. “It
also shows our customers that we are there for them, for anything they need.”
For Jeff Bailey, owner of Spring Dance Hot Tubs (and co-host of The SpaRetailer Podcast) in Jamison, Pennsylvania, offering a hot tub valet service made fiscal sense. “The best part of offering this service is the customer wants it and is willing to pay for it,” he says.
Spring Dance’s most popular service is a bi-monthly service. Swim
spa valet is handled the same as hot tubs but with a higher service charge,
commensurate with the extra time and water care larger vessels require.
routes in the beginning is tough because they’re scattered throughout your
selling market,” Bailey says. “If
you stick with it, it becomes easier to manage as more customers come on board.
It builds an additional profit center, making your business more attractive
when you are ready to sell it.”
While Bailey cites increased profits and the ability to keep
service staff busy as the biggest benefits, he says offering a valet service
presents other advantages as well.
“All of our
service techs are cross-trained to do valet, and a nice benefit of the valet
service is that the valet techs can also learn the service side of the
business,” he says. “We have
several trucks on the road every day in my market and that really helps us to
give better overall service to our customers that need service in a pinch.”
Many spa retailers offer drain-and-purge services, either as part
of the valet service or as a separate offering. Spring Dance Hot Tubs started
its drain-and-purge service first, though now it’s rolled into the company’s
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Ouster Water Solutions, manufacturer of a line of water care products in Scottsdale, Arizona, offers hot tub valet service products for retailers who want to offer a drain-and-purge option for their customers. According to David Wood, the company’s managing partner, an advantage of performing a hot tub purge at a customer’s home is to let homeowners see with their own eyes the contaminants that come from the spa’s interior plumbing system.
about education,” Wood says. Many customers, he says, are astounded when they
see all the gunk that results from the company’s Ouster Restoration cleanse and
want to prevent their hot tubs from becoming that filthy again.
Wood is also a believer in
the additional benefits of companies offering valet and drain-and-purge
services, beyond the extra revenue they bring.
“Drain-and-purge programs are often
ignored during good economic times, but are the lifeline during a market slow
down,” he says. “Spa dealers
who thrived in the 2008 to 2011 recession had extensive spa service, valet and
drain-and-clean programs. That revenue covered a significant amount of employee
and fixed overhead expenses when new tub sales plummeted.”
Dave Wooldridge, president and sales manager of Two Men and a Spa Dolly in Arnold, Missouri, also sees benefits of offering a valet service beyond simple added revenue.
definitely look at your portfolio before approving loans,” Wooldridge says. “If you look like a 12-month
company and less seasonal, that helps with the approval process.”
Two Men and a Spa Dolly offers weekly, biweekly, monthly and
quarterly service. Swim spas are serviced along with regular spas, just with
more time allocated to those jobs. Like many spa companies that offer valet
service, the company also separately offers drain-and-purge service for an
added fee. In addition to providing a convenience to customers, Wooldridge
says, their drain, clean and fill service also allows the company to stay in
front of potential problems with a customer’s spa and to be proactive with
Kelly King, owner of Mountain Hot Tub in Bozeman, Montana, says his company grew its valet service in steps, offering service in a particular area only after there was enough interest. With Montana’s long winters, the overhead on vehicles and the number of jobs his technicians can perform in a day is significantly less than for spa companies in warmer climates. Mountain Hot Tub now has four full-time valet techs in the field, plus an in-house manager and part-time assistant manager.
“Routing is key
to profitability,” King says. “In
areas that have high concentration of accounts, we can service a lot of spas in
a short amount of time. It also allows us to leave a hose running on a timer so
we can return to it instead of waiting for a spa to fill before we leave. But
in areas that are farther away and spread out, we may not have the luxury of
returning the same day to pick up a hose on a timer.”
Drain-and-clean jobs are a
big part of Mountain Hot Tub’s valet program, both as part of a quarterly valet
package and quarterly service by itself. King says their valet customers are an
important part of his company’s
indicates these customers will help carry our business in a downturn,” King
says. “They will be loyal to
our company when it comes to buying their next spa. Their contribution to our
business by word-of-mouth as happy hot tub owners may be hard to measure, but
there’s no doubt in my mind that it makes a difference.”
Additionally, King says the value of their valet service
contributed to their obtaining a substantial loan through the Small Business
Administration to fund the building of a new facility. “Being able to add that recurring revenue
line to our P&L definitely has advantages.”