Retailer Reactions to COVID-19

Hot tub retailers quickly pivot to meet new demands

Valley Pool & Spa, with seven locations in the Pittsburgh area, got an online store put together in five days. They already had some of the infrastructure in place from doing marketplace ecommerce business, so they were able to pull it off.

“If it wasn’t for already having the shipping and fulfillment infrastructure (and employees), we would have never been able to launch so quickly and so seamlessly,” says Eric Cassidy, vice president of the company. “It’s not perfect and we only have about 75% of our items on it (just built it temporarily on Shopify for now), but it works for the situation we are in now!”

Customers can pick up their online orders curbside at any of the company’s locations or call the store to place a curbside order as well.

Prestige Pools & Spas in St. Louis, Missouri, is still considered an essential business in the state.  “Keeping pools/hot tubs clean is good for the customers who are forced to stay home and gives them a better reason to stay home more,” says Chad Moentenich, a sales person for the company.

Customers are no longer allowed inside the showroom, so instead the company has implemented call-in ordering with curbside pickup.  Prestige sent a mass email to all its customers updating them to the new rules and reminding them that they can order any supplies needed for the year that will be delivered with their pool opening.  

“Customers can call in their order and pay with credit card over the phone,” Moentenich says. “We then box or bag up their order and put their name on it with the receipt stapled to it. 

For hot tub sales they are offering customers the option to FaceTime. “Traffic has gone significantly down,” Moentenich says. “Some customers are holding off their purchase until a little more clarity into what the future holds.”

The showroom for New England Spas in Natick, Massachusetts, has closed to the public, but curbside pickup of supplies is still an option. Customers can also arrange for private and virtual showroom appointments.

Messaging via email and banner ads has shifted a bit to let customers know these options are available. “On a positive note,” owner Norm Coburn says, “online sales are way up and so is service and valet. And we expect a robust recovery once this is behind us.”

“When this crisis started, we were very proactive,” says Midiam Demelo, owner of Hot Tub Central in Tom’s River, New Jersey. “This is all very challenging.”

Staff sent emails and texts messages to customers about the precautions being taken to offer a safe shopping environment, but soon after, the retail store had to be closed. Video calls, phone calls and virtual showroom presentations are the options remaining. Hot Tub Central is also promoting ‘Spacation,’ offering five years no interest financing on hot tub purchases. Customers can still order chemical supplies and they are being shipped for free. While Demelo says a good number of customers are engaging and new leads are coming in, no one is really buying. 

“I am continuing paying my employees but don’t know for how much longer,” she says. “As a retail store, we operate 100% from our sales so it’s extremely challenging. I am also very positive that when this all passes and the pandemic is under control, our industry will thrive for home improvement and wellness. Family and friend time in the safety of our homes will be a priority for many Americans.”

“It’s business as unusual for us,” says Jennifer Gannon, owner of BonaVista LeisureScapes in Toronto, Ontario. The retail store is closed to the public, but staff are checking email, phone messages and texts daily. A courier service delivers products and curbside delivery is available by appointment at the store, five days a week. 

“We have consulted with industry experts and provided our staff with rigorous safety training if they opt to keep working,” Gannon says. “We also offered staff a temporary layoff with the option to return to work with their job secure if they prefer to self-isolate.”

BonaVista’s service crews and construction operations are moving forward but at a much slower pace, taking great care to keep the recommended 6-feet of distance, daily messaging about washing hands and rigorous cleaning practices in place on their trucks and job sites. BonaVista also strives to communicate often with customers, including an update to the company website with a banner across the top “explaining that we’re doing the best we can to serve while following the clear messaging to keep distance,” Gannon says.

Best Hot Tubs with three locations in New York is open by appointment only during the week and with limited weekend hours. The company is offering deep discounts to help cover its operating expenses and is offering customers multiple ways to shop without coming to the store, including by phone, Google Meet and Zoom video conferencing. In an email to customers, owner Bill Renter says, “Please help our small business (9 full-time employees) stay active while bringing you and your family relaxation in your new Bullfrog spa.”

Georgia Spa Company, with six locations in the Atlanta-metro area, sent out an encouraging video to its social media followers, and offered the discounts it had planned for its cancelled home show in the showroom. They’re also offering customers a variety of ways to shop for hot tubs, grills, chemicals and needed accessories without having to come into a showroom.

Galaxy Home Recreation with three locations across Oklahoma created this video below. As of right now their stores are still open and are offering curbside pickup, private appointments and deep discounts. In addition, the company is partnering with Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma to provide food and supplies to those in need. When customers post a photo on Galaxy’s Facebook page they donate 80 meals. In addition, 10% of all retail purchases are going to the food bank.

Time Machine Hot Tubs in Long View, Texas, explained its essential business status, and also encouraged customers to come out to their store in a Facebook video.

It was Ryan Taube’s wife who helped him make the final decision about store operation when she told him not to choose money over health and family. With that, Taube closed Waterscape Hot Tubs in Waterloo, Ontario, to foot traffic for an undisclosed amount of time.

“We also don’t want to look bad in the community for when this all gets better and potential hot tub or swim spa customers start walking through the door again,” Taube says.

The Waterscape telephone system and automatic email responses notify anyone reaching out of the company’s current policy and the reasons behind it. The email also cites that hot tub and pool use is still safe during this time per CDC statements, as long as water is properly maintained.

Chemical orders can still be made over the phone for curbside pickup at Waterscape, as Taube believes it’s an essential service needed to maintain the health and well being of customers and the community. 

What are you doing to help your company and community stay afloat right now? Let us know — share what you can to help keep our entire industry on track!