W.When the heat rises above 90 degrees, the artist Joan Marangoni stops painting on her new mural in Murphy’s Music Center in Leechburg by noon. She practically sprints to her new 30-foot circular, above-ground pool in her Washington Township home.
“Jumping into a pool to cool off and be in a safe space with your kids is wonderful,” she said. “It’s my reward every day.”
The Marangonis are one of the lucky ones who managed to buy a pool before many shops and builders ran out of them.
The surge in the pool market was predictably caused by the public rush for one of the few recreational activities sanctioned by the pandemic: swimming in your yard.
Aboveground swimming pools join the legions of other in-demand pandemic play items like bikes and kayaks, which are also nearly sold out.
Pool sales have increased nationally during the pandemic, according to the Pool & Hot Tub Alliance in Alexandria, Virginia, the largest national organization representing the pool industry.
While much of the growth in new pools is focused on the Sun Belt states, growth rates for all pools averaged nearly 35% this year during the pandemic, said Janay Rickwalder, vice president of marketing and communications at Allianz.
The first indication of impulse demand for pools came in May and was developing rapidly before Memorial Day, said Mark Cristallini, zone manager in Plum at Pool Corp., which describes itself as the world’s largest distributor of pools.
“It was like turning on a light switch,” said Cristallini.
In May there was a 200% increase in the Google search for “swimming pools” which, according to Rickwalder, was the third highest searched retail term for that month. Aboveground pools were the most popular searches in this category.
In fact, Marangoni, an art teacher at Fox Chapel Area High School, and her husband Vince always wanted a pool. In mid-May, they took the plunge to buy their first pool, knowing that with the pandemic, there was likely no beach vacation.
“We had a long summer and very little entertainment for our three daughters,” she said. The Marangonis went to Pine Run Pools and Spas and placed an order. They got their pool three weeks ago.
Above-ground pool purchases were overwhelming and sold out after Memorial Day, Cristallini said. Manufacturers had some issues and were not open during parts of the pandemic.
“They are unable to keep up with the high demand,” said Cristallini.
There are still bags of pool inventory, but it’s hard to find, he said.
“It’s an incredible boom that I’ve never seen in all of my years in business,” said Cristallini, who has been in the pool industry for 37 years. “Consumers already know that they won’t receive their pool until next spring.
“There is no slowdown in sight,” he continued. “Support gear, chemicals, toys and games – everything is in short supply because everything in a pool is so popular now.”
At Alpine Pools with locations in Jeannette, Hampton and elsewhere, longtime sales manager Tom Esser has another perspective on the popularity of pools.
In recent years, Esser said, backyard pools have seen competition as families spend more time and money on their children’s organized sports and activities. But pandemic restrictions have prevented all kinds of sports for the family.
“Covid-19 is a terrible, terrible thing and affects a lot of people,” he said. “The only good thing about it is that I see people walking the streets, riding bikes and neighbors sitting on porches and talking.”
Sales of Pine Run Pools and Spas in Washington Township are up at least 50% this year, said owner Ron Stiffler, whose family business has been in operation since 1975.
“I sold every pool I had and got more pools and they go fast,” he said.
Stiffler hadn’t been able to get his hands on a solar cover or ladders for a month. Filter systems and liners are hard to find. He knows at least one ladder manufacturer in New York who had to close its doors during the pandemic and is now busy with orders.
“There is the problem of the supply chain. The demand is high because everyone wants to swim, and now it’s almost 100 degrees, ”said Stiffler on Wednesday.
Commercial market is a different story
The hot residential pool market is affecting the commercial market, said Mike Bonavita, one of the owners of the family-run B&R Pools in East Liberty.
About 95% of B&R’s work is in commercial pools that are not open.
When Bonavita needs a pool heater or pump, it has to wait a long time. He said he waited nine weeks for heaters.
“I’ve never seen a year like this, probably never will – and I don’t want to,” said Bonavita. The demand for residential real estate is partly due to the closure of commercial pools.
Although there are still a few pools left in the backyard, Stiffler is taking orders for the next year.
Pools and parts manufacturers are lagging behind and won’t catch up until next year, said Cristallini.
“All indications this will continue until next summer,” he said.
Cristallini advises residents to buy their pools now as shortages and higher prices will continue to be an issue.
“If you can find it now, buy it now,” he said. “They may need to get bigger because inventory is still available and not all of it is being sold.”
Mary Ann Thomas is a contributor to Tribune Review. You can contact Mary at 724-226-4691, [email protected], or on Twitter.