You will be hard pressed to find a hot tub retailer in the world that isn’t having their best year. Retailers have signed deals for more tubs in single months of 2020 than they did for all of 2019. Sales numbers, however, have never been the barometer for choosing who we feature as a Retail Star. When we started making our retailer shortlist this year, we looked for businesses that gave a little extra, jumped on an idea early or had obstacles to overcome as they simultaneously dealt with coronavirus. I’m pleased with who we landed on for this year, but I know we’ve only scratched the surface of stories the pandemic has wrought.
Normally we ship boxes of this issue to The International Pool | Spa | Patio Expo and The Pool & Spa Show. As of right now, the PSP is virtual while the Atlantic City show is doing everything it can to be in-person. In general, the live events industry — which includes trade shows as well as concerts and festivals — has been decimated by the pandemic. In August, live event companies surveyed by Live Design reported a 75% loss of revenue since March, a bleak reminder that although our industry is booming, all is not well for many adjacent industries.
But spa manufacturers and dealers have steadily disappeared from show floors in recent years, with most choosing to spend that money on their own dealer events. As I’ve asked people why they do or don’t exhibit or attend, responses have centered on not seeing a return on investment. 1) It’s too expensive; 2) not enough people attend; 3) it gives the competition a chance to see what they’re doing; 4) it’s the same seminars every year; 5) there’s rarely anything new to see.
Many are predicting this to be the final death knell to already suffering trade shows, but I am hoping this is what the industry needs to breathe life back into ours. As Trish McCormick, director of The Pool & Spa Show, says, “It’s fun and kind of exciting creating different ways of doing live events that could be around for years to come. Maybe it was time for the industry to change anyway.”
As everyone becomes more adept at selling and networking online, you realize how important face-to-face interactions are. Can we do it all online? Sure. Do we want to? I don’t. Thriving industries have thriving trade shows — and thriving trade magazines. My hope is this forced break will be the revival we need to see the importance of in-person business.