It’s happening. After hearing that pretty much every OEM in the hot tub industry is being sold, some of the hearsay has come to fruition: Marquis, Artesian and Core Covers have all made deals with private equity firms. And OEMs aren’t the only ones being bought up: Hot tub retail businesses have become attractive to groups as well. Leslie’s, for instance, continues to quietly purchase spa stores; to my knowledge, it’s completed five acquisitions.
Change can make me nervous, and we’ve had enough of that the last couple years. But my initial jitters aside, these changes are signs of good things to come in the industry. We’re finally getting the marketing penetration we’d always hoped for, both on the consumer and private-equity side. More money coming into the industry can mean more growth, efficiency and visibility across the board.
We’ve been trying to quantify industry growth over the last couple months, both with a survey and in this month’s cover story, “Sales Snapshot.” I wish I could have persuaded a few more of you to complete the survey, but 1) I know you’re busy, and 2) I know this industry does not like to share numbers with anyone, ever. I’m going to leave the survey open, though, and if we get significantly more people to fill it out over the next few weeks, we’ll do an update. No one will know who filled it out — not even us — but we’ll end up with fascinating industry data.
The numbers we did get, however, told a remarkable tale. We had approximately 50 retailers fill out our survey, and those respondents claimed a 47% increase in unit sales from 2019 to 2020 and an 18% increase from 2020 to 2021. As you dig into the responses and compare units sold to units delivered, you can see when manufacturing started to catch up and when allocations were handed down.
For most in the industry, 2019 marked a steady, successful year. There was slight growth for some from 2018, but it was typically single-digit to low double digits, especially if a new location hadn’t been opened. Back then, retailers almost certainly had to open a new location to see significant sales jumps.
What happens in the remainder of this year should begin to tell us if the average number of hot tubs sold will look like 2021, or more like 2019, going forward.