The Wait Goes On

Hot tub dealers and manufacturers work to better communicate lead times

Predicting hot tub lead times remains a serious planning headache for dealers. Like much of the pandemic’s timeframe, it’s anyone’s guess when products will land on a dealer’s or customer’s doorstep.

“To say it is frustrating is a serious understatement,” says David Isaacs, owner of Isaacs Pools & Spas and Bullfrog Spas of Tri-Cities near Johnson City, Tennessee.

Isaacs has been quoted a year for a slide and eight weeks for an outdoor pergola. Though it is ever evolving, when interviewed Isaacs was anticipating a five-month lead time for hot tubs. His company has allocated spas on a predetermined calendar for all of 2022. 

Clearwater Spas has tried to mitigate this problem by staying in close communication with its dealers about marketing calendars, says Brent Conver, CEO at Clearwater Spas. His team still sees high spa demand into this new year.

“We are working with each of our [dealers] to schedule shipments across the year,” Conver says. “Our goal is to ensure our production calendar matches our dealers’ marketing calendar. We have found clear communication and detailed planning are key to executing in this environment.”

And although no one foresaw such high demand due to the pandemic, manufacturers want dealers to know that their frustrations aren’t falling on deaf ears.

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“When dealers know what they will be able to get and when they will get it, they are able to set the proper expectations with their retail customers,” Conver says.

Though manufacturers usually have good intentions, they often miscalculate the already “very long” lead times they predict, Isaacs says, adding that he will continue to expect inaccurate lead-time predictions throughout this year.

Salespeople who are upfront on how the pandemic has created major industry challenges remains key, says Isaacs. His team offers monthly updates at a minimum to keep customers in the know, via phone calls, texts and emails. In the latter, Isaacs’ team attaches an electrical schematic for the spa so the customer’s electrician can be ready once the spa arrives. 

A written contract can also provide protection to dealers, ensuring the customer understands the magnitude of potential delays, he adds. “Once customers began to realize ‘in-stock’ is no longer the norm for numerous products,” Isaacs says, “they accept that they will have to wait.”

Even if the delivery sees further delay, keeping customers positive can be helpful. Painting a picture of relaxation and the anticipation of the hot tub arrival can make customers less agitated, says Kathi Belcourt, retail manager at Aqua-Tech Pools in Manitoba, Canada.

As such, her team focuses more on in-stock units instead of aesthetics like color combinations. That can help customers shorten their wait times, which they appreciate. “Is the reason your family wants a hot tub because the skirt is gray and the shell is blue?” she says. “Or is it the hydrotherapy, quality time and longevity of the investment? Questions like these help keep the passion for the product as well as desire for a wonderful experience the top motivator for our clients.”