Revamped fitness systems coming to dealer channel
By Andrew Lisa
IN FEBRUARY 2015 when Watkins Manufacturing acquired the original developer of countercurrent swimming, Endless Pools, it was part of a larger company strategy to not only expand its product line, but also to reimagine its entire brand, changing its name to Watkins Wellness on New Year’s Day 2016.
ENDLESS POOLS AND THE EVOLUTION OF WATKINS
It made sense for Watkins Wellness, to acquire the Aston, Pennsylvania– based brand. Its portfolio was already packed with brands like Caldera Spas, Hot Spring, Fantasy Spas and Freeflow Spas. Its massive dealer network included more than 1,000 retailers in all 50 states and 70 countries.
“As far as the breadth of our offering, we were about as wide as we were interested in getting in the hot tub business,” says Steve Hammock, president of Vista, California–based Watkins Wellness.
Endless Pools’ products offered more than just another opportunity for expansion; it embodied Watkins’ new brand philosophy: passion for the benefits of water therapy.
The countercurrent fitness systems — far more substantial than the acrylic, single-cell jetted swim spas common to the market — were a perfect fit for Watkins, which was focused on promoting physical and mental wellness. (The company’s new tagline: Feel Good. Live Well.)
“Our mission now is to sell the health benefits as the best reason to own these products,” Hammock says. “Hot tubs provide a certain amount of passive exercise in that they stimulate the heart and provide tremendous benefits in other ways. But these fitness systems, sold under the Endless Pools brand, enable active exercise — low-impact, cardiovascular, year-round and at home. They provide the best swim workout you can get anywhere.”
A HYBRID BUSINESS MODEL
The new relationship required an imaginative division of labor. Endless Pools sells mostly custom products, which doesn’t play well to Watkins’ manufacturing setup. Endless Pools also sells directly to end users, while Watkins wholesales to its extensive network of retail dealers. The solution: Each entity would continue doing what they do best.
Endless Pools has three central offerings:
•Main product: Custom-made steel-paneled swim pool kits, made in Aston and assembled on- site.
•Fastlane: Countercurrent swim machines that can be integrated into new or existing classic backyard pools.
•Prefabricated, self-contained product: Fitness systems, formerly known as swim spas.
Endless Pools will continue to be a direct-marketing company that handles both the main product and Fastlane offerings. Endless will also continue to handle commercial products — such as those sold to country clubs and fitness centers — and institutional products used mainly by university swim teams.
“One of the reasons [Endless has] such a strong brand and loyal following is that they are a direct marketer,” Hammock says. “After 28 years, they’ve created a very strong brand, and we’re not going to change that.”
The prefabricated Fitness Systems will be marketed through Watkins’ specialty retail channel, its global network of Caldera and Hot Spring dealers. Watkins has revamped and updated the fitness systems, tailored them to its manufacturing strengths and will sell them through its global network of Caldera and Hot Spring dealers. In August it announced two new lines for this channel, the Endless Pools Fitness Systems and SwimCross Exercise Systems by Endless Pools.
The Endless Pools product line is already exceeding dealer expectations, and the hybrid corporate structure is working for both organizations. “Our business here at Watkins is very culture driven,” Hammock says. “We profess everywhere loudly and proudly that it’s a winning culture. We’ve been very pleased that the team at Endless Pools in Aston has also created a winning culture there. We have a lot in common. We’re better together.”