SAGINAW, MI – If you put toilet paper and hand sanitizer aside, there is one new product that is in great demand during the COVID-19 pandemic: swimming pools.
Michigan retailers saw record sales of pools, pool toys, and accessories and chemicals this year. The sunny, hot summer this year only helps the trend.
With no community pools opening across the state this year and residence cations becoming the standard during the pandemic, many families are taking the initiative to add a pool to their homes.
Midland’s Amy Worthington was ahead of the curve – she booked her pool installation with Beattie Master Pools and Spas of Saginaw last year. Beatties crews are currently working intensively on their property and are installing a new summer oasis for their family.
She said a pool will be a source of fun during the pandemic as they stay home more, especially for their six-year-old son, Liam. He watched crews pour cement for the pool this week.
“He’s as excited as I am,” said Worthington. “Having children gives them something to do.”
Paul Douglas is the digital media director for Blue Hawaiian Pools, Michigan, based in Flint.
“Due to the pandemic, we believe more people are trying to add a pool to their home because they are spending more time with local family instead of vacationing,” said Douglas.
Blue Hawaiian Pools of Michigan is one of the many pool companies in the state seeing dramatic sales growth. Beattie Master Pools and Spas owner Kari Beattie-Randolph said she saw a “crazy busy” season this year.
“I think a lot of people not only realize this summer, but we hear a lot of people saying this is some kind of new normal and money that they spent on vacation or that they are now putting into their homes for home entertainment,” said they.
The pool business boomed from the start this season.
“In general, the trend was to get started right away,” said Beattie-Randolph.
Memorial Day weekend is usually a busy weekend for the industry, but according to Beattie-Randolph, this year’s holiday weekend blasted the past few years out of the water. She said there was a rush to get across above ground pools.
“Aboveground pools were the new Charmin toilet paper, everyone had to have one,” she said.
Douglas of the Blue Hawaiian Pool in Michigan noted that sales have also grown steadily since the beginning of the 2020 season and demand for installations and fiber pools has increased.
“More and more customers are demanding instant pool installs that are balanced with customers filing one, three, and six months as well as pool installation requests for the next year,” said Douglas.
Another hot product that doesn’t usually fly off the shelves but is in short supply is unusual for the hot Michigan summer – the whirlpool spa. Most spas are usually bought by customers who come in for an experience and special show, including time to customize their spa with their house designs and colors, according to Beattie-Randolph. However, customers grabbed the seven spas Beattie had in their showroom within two weeks this season.
“This time people were like, ‘I’ll take it,’ it’s almost like they knew,” she said. “I think people realize that getting something is going to take a long time, so it’s kind of smart.”
Pool retailers and installers aren’t the only ones seeing a dramatic surge in demand. Pool service companies are seeing an increase in maintenance requests.
“From about May until now, we typically see 80 to 90 calls a day during the summer and we’re somewhere between 150 and 200 a day,” said Edward McPheeters, president of Affordable Pool & Spa in Burton.
McPheeters attributed an increase in income from stimulus payments and COVID relief programs to people who stay at home due to high demand for his services.
“We’re opening pools and cleaning them up that people have been closing for three to five years because they said they couldn’t afford them,” he said.
“They’re stuck at home so they think they’ll get their stuff working,” he added.
McPheeters said it is important that many water owners are aware of water chemistry and that it needs to be balanced and monitored as this year many pool owners are entering the market for the first time.
The pandemic brings its own security challenges. Pool retailers, installers, and maintenance teams also had to make adjustments to keep their employees and customers safe.
Blue Hawaiian Pools have launched a new website where potential customers can create their pool in a virtual shopping cart.
McPheeters said he uses bottles of bleach mixes to sanitize his company’s work and that customers are advised to stay indoors while crews work outside.
Beattie-Randolph said she decided to keep her location at 6232 Bay Road open while closing her other location at 5738 State St. At the open location, she said her employees disinfected switches, door handles and things that people touch.
“We have a very large showroom, but we still have a maximum of 15 customers who recommended masks,” she said.
As demand increases, so do the challenges for companies trying to secure pool inventory and parts.
“The only frustrating part of being a business owner is that you can’t get things,” said Beattie-Randolph. “Right now we could do a lot better, but we can’t get above-ground pools, we can’t get pumps and filtration systems.”
She also said it was difficult even to find filter sand at any point this season.
McPheeters has noticed the same trend on the service and maintenance side.
“It’s getting harder and harder to get parts because factories have been shut down by COVID for so long. Now we’re seeing issues where pumps, filters and heaters are getting very scarce if you can get them,” he said. “Some of them have a month or two re-orders.”
When demand is strong, those looking to add a new pool to their home may get discouraged, but Beattie-Randolph has some advice.
“Keep trying. I would say if you’re really interested in an above-ground pool, it doesn’t mean we’ll never be in … you will never find out. Don’t give up, we still have a lot of summer,” she said .
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