How our panelists have faired in the swim spa market
Mark Nelson Master Spas of Western Michigan Grand Rapids, Michigan
Swim spa sales aren’t for every dealer, just like some hot tub dealers don’t build pools. Yes, we sell swim spas and we outsell all in our region. It was only when Master Spas decided to invest in, and rewrite the book on, swim spas did we actually sell swim spas, instead of having one in a warehouse collecting dust. During a down time in spas sales, to have a manufacturer create this market was uplifting. It saved a lot of dealers, made us and others stronger, added hundreds of thousands of dollars to our bottom line.
You need to get the best product, show it at your retail store, spa sales, swim spa sales and home shows. Customers need to touch, feel and wet-test swim spas. Showing a dry one or a piece of literature won’t work. Customers are buying swim spas for fitness, training, aquatic therapy, exercise and as a family fun center. In my Michigan region, it extends the swimming season to 12 months instead of two or three. Dealers need a full-time swim spa delivery department and swim spa service specialist. You may need to buy a crane or have a relationship with a crane truck driver with many set cranes available. Don’t worry, though: The delivery cost is deferred to the homeowner.
There is no happier customer than a Michael Phelps Signature Swim Spas customer. Our repeat and referral business for swim spas sales are out of the ballpark.
Jeff Kaufer Concord Pools Latham, New York
Swim spas were a natural extension of the healthy living lifestyle we promote with our pools and spas. The product — ideal for winter climate swimmers — offered a niche market for the consumer who didn’t want a pool, yet wanted to stay fit in colder months. Some customers have even gone through the added expense of enclosing them in one way or another. This would be an enormous expense for a swimming pool.
We have always displayed our swim spas running because of low consumer awareness. We recently added an addition to showcase our swim spa demonstration area.
To sell a swim spa, like anything else, talk to the customer. Find out their needs and wants, and direct them to the right product — whether it be a pool, spa or swim spa. We have found most of our success with pool shoppers who want what a swim spa offers.
Margaret Bell Adventure Hot Tubs & Pools Sarasota, Florida
It seemed like a good idea at the time. We are pool contractors. There are a lot of swimming pools in our market. Early in the life of swim spas, our main hot tub manufacturer began selling them. Nice margins, quality product — so we joined the party. We brought in a unit for our showroom, filled it with water, put up visual design materials. We had events for triathletes, weekend warriors and children. (Children especially liked them.) We even took one to an off-site triathlon with a dedicated following. We promoted them to seniors, a large demographic in our market, and touted the health benefits. We displayed a swim spa, with the workout accessories, at a health expo associated with a half-marathon in our community. While talking to a prospective customer, I had my back turned. The senior citizens were taking apart my display and putting the fitness accessories into their goody bags!
Another detail about our market is the flat topography. When you dig, you hit water at 2 or 3 feet. No one wants a swim spa–size box on the deck in their backyard. We did work with another swim spa manufacturer who builds them for in-ground installation. The units could be set half in ground.
Our last unit was over 12 months old before we were able to move it.
Larry Berczyk Valley Pools & Spas Burnsville, Minnesota
We just started selling swim spas a little over a year ago. We talked about swim spas for about three years before making a decision. We were getting enough inquiries about them that it started a conversation; we were also looking for a solution to a problem we had with potential in-ground pool customers who didn’t have the budget or room in their yard for a pool.
We have been selling Marquis spas exclusively for many years, and it didn’t make a swim spa at the time. We had looked at a number of different manufacturers and were having a hard time making a decision. Then Marquis announced it was going to build a swim spa or ATV (Aquatic Training Vessel). That made the decision for us. We ordered as soon as they were available.
If we were going to invest in swim spas, we decided we would go all in. We put a running model in three of our four stores. In the fourth location we don’t have room for an ATV, so we use videos for presentations. We take an ATV to any show we attend and run television ads promoting the benefits. But the best opportunities come from the in-ground pool leads. The people who contact us inquiring about a pool — but can’t fit one in their yard or budget — see it as a viable alternative. We also have a generation who wants the benefits of low-impact exercise, and the ATV fits that need.
We have had good success with the ATV and are happy we brought them in. I’m glad we have the room to display running models. It makes it a lot easier to sell primarily because customers can see how it functions and try it out, which is important to the serious buyer.