A 19-foot Hydropool swim spa on grade with deck surround. Photo: Mike Feraco Photography for BonaVista LeirsureScape

Pool Alternative

As swimming pool lead times increase, opportunity for swim spas abounds

As a result of long lead times for hot tubs and pools, many consumers looking to enhance their backyards during COVID-19 are giving swim spas a closer look. As a quarantining populace spends more time at home, they’re feathering their nests; almost across the board, aquatics businesses report dramatically higher sales since the spring.

“Our [swim spa] sales have tripled since the shutdown,” says Paul Madden, co-owner of Water By Design in Roanoke, Virginia. “We had a record year in 2019 and have already exceeded that record this year.” His company is sold out of swim spas until summer 2021.

Madden says the lead time in his area for a swim spa is roughly the same as for a swimming pool, but most of his customers buy swim spas for the added resistance they can’t get in a pool. The lower cost of a swim spa may influence sales to some degree, he says, but the bigger factors are people staying home, cancelling vacations and the like. The fact that swim spas are portable, in case the homeowner moves, and that workout accessories can be added are also advantages that have boosted sales.

Jennifer Gannon, owner of the retail division of BonaVista LeisureScapes in Toronto, reports that sales of swim spas at her store have also tripled since the shutdown. She has sold many of them specifically as an alternative to a pool.

“They are less expensive than an in-ground pool,” Gannon says, “and offer a year-round place to swim, since many people aren’t working out at the local pool or gym.”

She says current orders are running eight to nine months out, which is about the same as for a pool. “What’s shorter is the operational setup once the foundation is in place, as the swim spa can be filled and heating within 24 hours of delivery.”

The lower cost of a swim spa versus a pool has also boosted sales, Gannon says. The smaller volume of water needed is also a plus.

“The swim spa is easy and fun to use as a hybrid pool that can be heated to a hot tub temperature,” she says. “With a water volume less than 10,000 liters and a well-insulated design, it’s an affordable luxury that provides exercise and therapy.”

Brian Wasik, owner of Spas of Montana and Spas of Oregon, has had a similar experience as other spa retailers, with dramatically increased sales in the past eight or so months.

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“It’s a bright spot in the middle of this pandemic,” he says.

Wasik says where his lead time for a swim spa used to be about three weeks, now it’s more like 20 to 40 weeks. He’s not so sure how many customers are buying swim spas specifically as an alternative to pools. “The market has been shifting that way in general for the past few years,” he says. “The big pitch is the ease for your backyard. You put a pool in and you’ve got weeks of them driving in, tearing up your backyard, where you can have a swim spa in a day. And they’re a fraction of the cost of a pool, so that helps.”

Steven O’Shea, vice president of sales and marketing at MAAX Spas in Chandler, Arizona, has been observing swim spa sales from the manufacturing side. He says sales of MAAX spas were boosted because the company could remain open last April and May, when many other manufacturers had to close. Has he seen many customers buying swim spas instead of pools?

A 19-foot Hydropool swim spa on grade with deck surround. Photo: Mike Feraco Photography for BonaVista LeirsureScape

“Absolutely!” he says. “Customers want these products immediately to enhance their home quarantine. Consumers are looking for any reason to have family gather at their homes, and hot tubs and swim spas have been a perfect solution.” 

He says the lower cost of a swim spa versus a pool has influenced recent sales trends, but the ease of installation and the fact that a swim spa takes up less than 25% of the space of the standard in-ground pool are also factors.

Peering into his crystal ball, O’Shea thinks swim spa sales will stay strong for the next two-plus years.

“We don’t expect families to start traveling outside the country for 18 to 24 months,” he says. “This will cause them to spend their vacation budgets to enhance their backyards and homes, which should keep this product category top of mind.”

Wasik agrees. “I think we have another year,” he says. “Even if we open up, most people aren’t going to travel next year.” Instead, he says, they’ll spend money on their backyards.

“I think [sales] will slow down slightly due to the fall/winter weather, but we will continue promoting them now for summer 2021 delivery,” says Gannon. “I think the demand will continue next year.”