BARCELONA / LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Locked up, hot and desperate after a bath? If you live in Indianapolis and feel like adding a pool in your yard, you’ll have to wait three weeks – but that’s just an appointment to order one for next year.
Albert and Gonzalo Cano Lapuente cool off in an above-ground Bestway pool at their home during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Premia de Mar north of Barcelona, Spain on August 3, 2020. The photo was taken on August 3, 2020. REUTERS / Albert Gea
In the United States and Europe, swimming pool and hot tub manufacturers and distributors strive to meet a wave of demand as consumers cocoon at home to escape the coronavirus pandemic.
Some US consumers are frustrated with the long lead times and concerned about a second wave of infections. Despite health and safety concerns, they have even made homemade pools out of metal cattle containers.
“I’ve been in this industry for 35 years and I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Thomas Epple, general manager of Only Alpha Pool Products in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Epple said orders for its steel and composite pool walls rose 200% in 60 days after a weak March and April. Now he’s doubled production by hiring more workers, adding shifts, and paying lots of overtime.
“The material shortage in the industry is great – pumps, heaters and above-ground pools have been sold out for some time.”
The swimming pool boom shows how the health crisis has shifted consumer habits in favor of stay-at-home businesses as the world battles for new outbreaks and some people avoid beaches, pools, and lakes for home vacations.
In Indianapolis, Tyler Hermon, sales director for Pools of Fun, said his phone kept ringing after an initial hiatus, and sales are now 43% higher than a year ago.
“I attribute this 100 percent to people quarantined at home,” he said, adding that customers had to wait three weeks for an appointment to discuss installations for 2021.
“The race is now on the schedule for next year as everyone is expecting there will be another lap, another wave.”
About 45% of the members of the Pool & Hot Tub Alliance, the most important trading group in the US industry, forecast sales growth of 10% or more for this year.
“We’re hearing from members whose contracts are fully booked through late 2021 and even early 2022,” said Alliance President Sabeena Hickman.
A HOUSE OASIS
Similarly, in Spain, a country known for its sizzling summer temperatures, which imposed one of the toughest barriers in Europe to contain the spread of COVID-19.
Spain’s Fluidra FLUI.MCThe world’s largest manufacturer of swimming pool equipment initially took its employees on leave in anticipation of a drop in demand, but soon got everyone back to work and hired more employees.
In May, Fluidra no longer had any storage or production capacity for its above-ground pools, despite the additional staff. Sales of these models, which cost around 1,300 euros, rose by over 50% in early July compared to the same period in 2019.
Revenue for the Community Pools Division, which supplies pools and equipment to customers such as hotels, declined 11.7% in the first half due to the impact of lockdowns.
“People want more property, bigger homes because they work from home, and want their surroundings to be an oasis in case they get locked up again,” said Bruce Brooks, CEO of Fluidra.
“I think it will stay that way until there is a vaccine and it goes back to normal,” he said, adding that the pool industry trend repeats itself across the western world as the ‘cocooning effect’ drives economic outcomes Offsets the downturn.
Sales of easy-to-build pools by home equipment retailer Leroy Merlin in Spain rose more than 200% year over year in the first six months of 2020, and stores are now out of stock, said product manager Ines Egea.
36-year-old Laila Dagali splashed on an inflatable pool for the terrace of her home near Barcelona in May when she avoided the beach and a pool in the neighborhood because she was “afraid of meeting strangers during the pandemic to be”.
In Germany, the demand for home pools has been increasing for several years, but has “worsened considerably” with the pandemic, said a spokeswoman for the manufacturer Hornbach Holding HBH.DE.
The big question now for pool manufacturers is how long the trend will last.
Carles Torrecilla, a marketing professor at Esade Business School in Barcelona, said it was too early to judge as new consumer habits could take years to consolidate.
“Only if the coronavirus lasts 10 years will behavior and habits change.”
($ 1 = 0.8489 euros)
Reporting by Joan Faus in Barcelona and Tim Aeppel in Los Angeles; Additional reporting by Christoph Steitz in Frankfurt; Letter from Joan Faus; Adaptation by Andrei Khalip and David Clarke
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