Memorial Day weekend is usually a big weekend for pool shop sales. This year, however, shopkeepers struggled to keep up with the high demand caused by the COVID-19 stay at home order.
“Sales have increased dramatically, especially since the weather changed,” said Peter White, owner of Aquatime Pools & Spas in Hudson. “The phone has been ringing since the beginning of May. … So there will be the seasonal burden and the additional pandemic burden which will really burden the supply chain. “
Jeff Huberty, one of the owners of Empire Pools and Spas with locations in Concord and Manchester, said in his 28 years in the business he has never seen anything like it. “From the minute we open the doors in the morning until we close at night, we are bullied,” he said.
“Memorial Day is usually our busiest weekend of the year,” said Huberty, adding that we have been busier this year than any other Memorial Day we’ve had. … everyone is at home. They don’t know when to go anywhere. And they want a pool. “
Empire Pools and Spas sells above-ground pools from one supplier in Canada and another in New York, said Nicole Soterion, Manchester sales director. The stores sell between $ 120 and $ 160 each year between fall and spring, Huberty said. They haven’t counted sales for this year yet, but according to Soterion, total sales for this year are 140, which will likely be the case for the year since they can’t get their hands on above-ground pools.
“I don’t know if we’ll see more numbers than last year,” she said, because they are completely sold out. “We can no longer sell at the moment. Everything we had in stock or could get through our dealers is gone. … We’ll get up, but if we could get our hands on more pools it would be astronomical. “
“Manufacturers cannot provide us with any more pools this year,” said Huberty.
“It happened in a wave,” said Soterion. “Suddenly everyone wanted a pool. It just happened so quickly. “
The Canadian supplier will remain closed and the New York supplier will not resume work for a nine-week hiatus.
“Right now there is a glimmer of hope that we can get some pools in July,” said Huberty.
Soterion told Empire that they were fully booked for their pool installations through August. The last pools they sold had to be taken out for installations, she said.
Empire Pools and Spas are also sold out, according to Huberty. “I can’t order hot tubs because my hot tub company is in California and they are closed. Your factory is physically closed. “
The pool shop also sells pool supplies and chemicals, and tests pool water so people know which chemicals to buy, he said. One reason the Concord store is so busy this May is because a competitor around the corner closed last year when the owners retired, he said. “Since everyone was home, everyone opened their pool at the same time it got warm,” he said.
Seasonal specialty stores in Amherst have also been overcrowded, deputy manager Thomas Stover said. The store sells above-ground pools and spas, pool accessories and supplies, and patio furniture and grills.
“This is my 8th year here and it’s the craziest year we’ve ever had,” he said. “Even when we were closed in April – when we were closed in April due to the coronavirus – we were overwhelmed with online and phone orders. Our shop was closed. As soon as we opened the doors, all hell broke loose, ”he said.
Based on government guidelines, they must keep the number of customers in the store below 30 at any one time, he said. “And we have to have someone to watch this count.”
“As for sales, we still have a hot tub. We don’t have any more pools, ”said Stover. “We sold over 50 pools in three weeks. We sold 15 hot tubs in three weeks. Almost all of our garden furniture is on the ground. “
“It’s been a great year for our business. It’s just crazy for us because we can only have so many people in the store at the same time, ”he said. The store even set up a new voice messaging system to answer all incoming calls.
“Our phones keep ringing,” said Stover. “We have hundreds of voicemails every night that we have to answer after we close. And when we open up again, it just starts all over again. It was definitely a busy year. “
Pool sales more than doubled this year, he said. “We usually sell between 30 and 40 pools a year. We sold 50 this month. … Including sales for April and March, that’s probably almost 80. “
Soterion said some of their pool buyers told them they’d been thinking about buying an above-ground pool for years. “For some people, this (the pandemic) is the kick in the pants they’ve always needed. So why not now that they have no way of going anywhere?” Other customers have told her they’ll be using their summer vacation money to buy a pool for a backyard stay.
Huberty added that his employees are working hard to keep themselves and customers healthy during this time. Only four customers are allowed into the store at a time, and everyone in the store must wear a mask, he said. “We can have 30 to 40 people waiting outside to come in any day,” he said. “Most people were very good at it. Most people thank us. But we had run-ins with people berating us and verbally abusing our employees. … I guess they more or less don’t want to be bothered – either wait outside or wear a mask. “
Stephanie Parker, a receptionist at Aquatime Pools & Spas, said since she started in the business two years ago, she has always received a certain number of calls from people asking if they install above-ground pools, which they don’t. But in the past two months, she has received more calls asking about above-ground pools than in the previous two years.
Aquatime is entirely an in-ground service and installation company, White said. Concrete or vinyl, to be precise, he said, which cost between $ 30,000 and $ 80,000. Concrete pools are more expensive and can take up to six to eight weeks to install. A vinyl pool is the cheaper and faster option. Installation only takes two to three weeks.
With the mad rush to get a pool in their back yard, most customers are asking about the vinyl option, White said, but the steel plates for the frames are now in short supply.
“The problem we are now running into is that manufacturing in the northeast is mostly outside of New York and New Jersey and we have problems with suppliers with the liners,” he said, who have been closed for nine weeks. “Last Friday we were informed that there was a shortage or a shortage of certain radius fields.”
Like Soterion, White said it is not so much about how many pools are ordered, but about having everyone come in to order them at the same time. The planning process at Aquatime usually starts in January and February, he said. Many of their projects start in the fall and finish in the spring, he said. “If you’re spending $ 30,000 to $ 80,000 on a gardening project, plan ahead.”
Sales at Aquatime typically slow down from May to July, he said. “I think this year will be all summer long.”
Soterion said Empire Pools staff joke that Memorial Day weekend is their Super Bowl. “But it’s been non-stop for two weeks,” she said. They ran out of pool chemicals this week, but they could replenish them the next day with weekly deliveries, she said.
Parker said Aquatime needed emergency supplies of chemicals.
“There are only so many pools that can be built and only so many chemicals for pools due to the closure of the pandemic,” White said.
Both stores said they are working on keeping pool supplies and chemicals in stock.
“They just fly off the shelves a lot faster than usual,” said Huberty.
Good or bad, sales don’t seem to be slowing as they would normally be at this time of year.
“You shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth because we’re in business and we’re fine, but it’s too far too fast I think,” said Huberty.
This article is shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. More information is available at kollaborativeh.org.