A store near Hartford, Connecticut just sold its last above-ground pool. The owner said he could easily sell 100 more.
Sand, a material vital to the construction of pools on a smooth and level surface, is difficult to keep in stock for more than a few hours at a New Jersey mass utility company.
Casey Freeman, a Nashville nurse who created a do-it-yourself video about creating a pool from a storage tank commonly used as a water trough for cattle, has been inundated with requests for supplies and installation help.
“People in New York City can’t understand why they can’t find a 10-foot tank,” said Ms. Freeman, 39. “And I ask her, are there ranchers near you? And they just don’t get it. “
Homeowners stare at the barrel of a long, hot summer – with vacations on hold and lots of camps, playgrounds, and public swimming pools closed because of the coronavirus – looking for creative ways to stay cool, active, and healthy.
For some, it means not having to pay for camps or vacations, but spending more money on other things.
Landscapers and retailers say sales of garden soil, mulch, and firewood – for fire pits – are growing sharply. Trampolines are hard to come by. And swings at a major Long Island retailer that takes orders online and over the phone, Backyard Solutions, have been out of stock since March.
“People are just getting their names on the list and throwing off 25 percent and hoping to get them by August,” said Melissa Smith, a sales rep for the swing set distributor. “If we had someone here 24 hours, they would be guaranteed to sell all day and all night.”
And then there are the pools.
High quality in-ground varieties are still in demand with homeowners with deep pockets and the luxury of waiting months for permits and construction.
But it’s the above-ground versions that are hottest in many pool stores, both for their relative affordability and their ease of installation.
Of course, in a country where 40 million workers have filed for unemployment since mid-March, even inexpensive pools are out of reach for the many people struggling to pay rent and food bills. A pool is definitely not for everyone.
And they’re just a fantasy for those who live in cramped apartments. Aboveground pools require ample space, which makes them more profitable for suburban and rural homeowners who drive the frenzied market.
“Sales are growing exponentially,” said Steven Metz, president of Central Jersey Pools in Freehold. “Triple what it was last year.”
The wait to purchase and install now extends into July, and calls are coming from as far as Wisconsin. A woman asked the store to take a pool to Long Island overnight.
Prices for metal-framed pools, including installation, can range from $ 3,500 to $ 15,000, depending on size and sophistication, Metz said. (Some can be partially sunk into the ground with built in steps, much like pools sunk into the ground.)
“You skip your vacation, you can pay for your pool,” said Paul Healy, the owner of Splash Pool Supply in South Windsor, Connecticut, who sold his last remaining above-ground pool last Wednesday. “If I had a crystal ball, I would have ordered a lot more.”
Since mid-April, Google searches for above-ground pools have risen steadily, exceeding the number of inquiries made each spring by around 300 percent over the past five years.
“It really was 48 states and Europe,” said Doug Hollowell, owner of one of the country’s largest above-ground pool manufacturers, Doughboy Pools in Arkansas. “We have seen pool packages sent to places we never thought they would go.”
A man who answered the phone at Aquasports, a pool manufacturer in New Jersey, said the company was “under siege”.
“It’s like the toilet paper and the water and the masks,” he said before refusing to give his name.
Pandemic problems in the supply chain have exacerbated the shortage.
Doughboy buys most of its parts in the United States. But it relies on electric motors sold by companies in Mexico and China to power its pool pumps, and Mr Hollowell said orders have lagged significantly.
Workers at his West Helena, Ark. Facility, now operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week due to increased demand, have faced childcare issues related to school and daycare closings. “We’re begging for employees,” said Hollowell.
The facility of an even larger pool manufacturer, Wilbar International in Hauppauge, NY, was shut down under the governor’s shutdown order.
“We hope and pray that you get up quickly because it will alleviate this crazy demand,” said Hollowell.
While the explosion in sales is certainly good for business, Mr Hollowell said he was concerned about the added risk of drowning and urged parents to stay vigilant. “The only way to prevent accidental drowning is through constant adult surveillance,” he said.
Jackie Dahrouge, a preschool teacher from Belmar, New Jersey, started looking for a pool in the backyard shortly after the coronavirus lockdown began.
She found one online and started making room for the 12 by 24 foot pool, which she considered a deposit to have a happy summer in an unpredictable world. If beaches closed due to crowds or an increase in virus, her 8-year-old daughter and extended family would still have a place to swim, she thought.
Two weeks later, the store informed her that the order could not be fulfilled.
“We called every pool shop. All the way to New York, ”said Ms. Dahrouge, who lives less than a mile from the beach. “I even called companies in California.”
She finally found one on eBay – in Oklahoma. It was shipped by truck and relatives and friends helped set it up on Saturday.
She said her family paid for it with money that would otherwise have been spent on a Tennessee spring vacation that was canceled.
“We did not go away. We didn’t have a vacation, ”said Ms. Dahrouge. “We said, ‘Let’s spend it in the yard.'”
Dominick Mondi, executive director of the Northeast Spa and Pool Association, said it was too early to fully assess the boom. However, sales are “significantly above the pace for this time of the year”.
Two weeks ago, Andriano Placencia and his wife, Cecilia Ordonez, bought the house they had rented in East Windsor, New Jersey for 20 years. Mr Placencia, 41, said he had long dreamed of owning a pool and watching his two children and his grandchildren swim outside.
The virus convinced him it was time to make that dream come true.
“The beaches are open, but I don’t really like going there,” said Mr. Placencia, a flooring contractor, when he was shopping for a pool last week. “There is more security in your home.”
Kathryn Garrecht, 71, had no plans to replace her pool after it was destroyed by a falling tree this winter.
Then the pandemic messed everything up, and her four grandchildren – including a 3-year-old who babysits her daily and a 14-year-old who is autistic – needed a place to play.
“You know what with the Covid-19, going to the beach a little bit sketchy,” she said. She ordered an 18-foot round pool in April, which was installed in her backyard in Wall, New Jersey a few weeks ago.
Dan Tratensek, vice president of the North American Retail Hardware Association, said the desire for indoor and outdoor improvements is driving sales in independent home and hardware stores nationwide. In a recent survey, nearly three-quarters of members said sales increased during the pandemic.
The Scotch Plains, New Jersey yard that sells mulch, sand, and firewood in bulk has increased sales about 35 percent, according to an owner, Kenny Midrano. He hired five additional workers just to share the logs.
“It’s usually 10 wooden cords a month at this time of year,” he said. “We made 150 to 175 cables. Everyone is hanging out by the fire. “
At the beginning of May, Joe Colangelo, CEO of Boxcar, an app-based parking and transport company, had a clue.
“I bet pools won’t open,” Colangelo said. “Let’s see what bulk pricing deals I can get.”
Boxcar’s source of income evaporated in March when most commuters started working from home. The company turned and is now arranging grocery collection, arranging drive-in movie trips – and selling pools.
Last Tuesday evening, Boxcar put 30 inflatable pools up for sale in its app. You were gone at 7 a.m. on Wednesday, Mr Colangelo said.
One shopper, Nancy Colacitti, 46, said she tried buying a pool online for her two sons.
“Everything sold out,” said Ms. Colacitti of Cranford, New Jersey. Then she saw Boxcar’s promotion.
“And that was perfect,” she said. “We can stay safe at home and keep social distance. We bring the beach to us. “
Chang W. Lee contributed to the coverage.
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