The People Have Spoken

After years of slow growth, hot tubs are back on wish lists

The October issue is always our Outdoor Living edition, but this year it’s our pandemic issue. I know, this is the only information any of you are interested in right now. Same.

I have been in the hot tub industry since 2008, right as the recession really hit. Certainly the industry’s challenges this year are unlike anything I’ve ever seen. I’ve talked to many of you who have been in the business twice as long as me, you are all saying the same thing.

What an insane set of circumstances we’ve found ourselves in. One of the good things about our industry is that most business are small enough that they can move quickly if need be — so when you retailers were forced to shut down, you did just that: laid off staff, furloughed people, started selling off whatever inventory you had — preparing for what, rightly so, we all thought was going to be the worst!

Spa manufacturers had to do the same, and when they were allowed to reopen (some didn’t have to shut down at all, while others were closed for almost three months) they had to rearrange their entire production lines to enforce social distancing and make sure their employees were safe.

And then — to the surprise of the majority of the industry — people started to come out of the woodwork to buy hot tubs.

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Let’s recap. Manufacturers weren’t making spas, but then restarted production, despite not being able to make as many spas as fast as they usually do. Retailers began selling spas like crazy and were left with few on the floor. Most spa manufacturers buy their raw materials and parts from the same suppliers, who were facing the same challenges as spa manufacturers. What a perfect storm. 

Lead times are now longer than they’ve ever been, and are now being impacted by shipping delays due to wildfires. Dealers are screaming at manufacturers to get them more tubs faster; manufacturers are screaming at suppliers to get them more parts faster; and customers are irritated that you can’t deliver their hot tub until next year.

We tackle of all that in this issue. We’ve talked to over a dozen dealers, manufacturers and suppliers about what happened to their business, how the industry has changed and where we go from here. It’s been one of the most fascinating things I’ve worked on in my tenure at SpaRetailer.

We appreciate that, despite the swirl of frustrating circumstances, people still made time to talk to our reporters for these stories. I think everyone needed to unload a bit, so I hope it felt a little like therapy. I think the most important takeaway for me is that PEOPLE WANT HOT TUBS. And we should never doubt that again.

Megan Kendrick, publisher