Donald W. Reynolds National Center For Business Journalism

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The Swimming Pool Economy: Making a Splash

May 1, 2018

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Brace yourselves...summer is coming. And people are about to spend a lot of money on their swimming pools - a lot of money that reporters don't usually cover. Image courtesy pixabay.com
Summer is almost here. People are about to spend a lot of money on their swimming pools — a lot of money that reporters don’t always cover. (Image courtesy pixabay.com)

Summer is coming. Although it’s only spring, swimming pool owners across the country are working to get their pools ready for the inevitable influx of swimmers. Whether it’s a super massive wave pool at a water park, an Olympic lap pool at a health club, or an above-ground soaking pool in a backyard, there’s a considerable economy to the swimming industry that isn’t often covered. As consumer spending continues to improve alongside the overall economy, how is this industry doing?

Repair & Service Techs

The vast majority of repair and service technicians — the people who drive their pickup trucks from house to house — are either solo owners of their routes or independent contractors. These “routes” are often sold through brokers, much like real estate. When a pool service or repair technician wants to retire, he or she sells those accounts through a broker. And when an independent owner wants to expand their business, they often hire independent contractors, rather than full employees. It seems like the pool service business is relatively easy to get into — and you can literally buy customers. The only license you need is a driver’s license. As consumers have more disposable income, are they increasingly hiring someone to clean their pools for them?

Builders & Contractors

In places like Arizona, which features six of the top-ten cities with the most backyard pools, the pool construction industry is pretty competitive. The once-giant Paddock Pools filed for bankruptcy, and the industry is becoming more saturated with smaller contractors. And, when someone chooses to build a pool in their backyard, a lot of smaller businesses are involved: excavators, plumbers, electricians, landscapers, masons, concrete workers, and inspectors, just to name a few. As consumer spending continues to rise and unemployment drops, will we see further expansion in the construction industry? Or has the Great Recession scared people away from excess spending?

Supply

All pool owners need chemicals and cleaning supplies. Interestingly, the retail pool supply market is pretty diverse, despite there being giant corporate names in the market. Leslie’s Swimming Pool Supplies – one of those giants – has several hundred stores in many states. While they have a sizable chunk of the market share, they don’t seem to wipe out the smaller, “mom-and-pop” competitors. Many of these stores, like Phoenix’s Checker Pool & Pump, have been around for decades. How are they able to compete with a national brand, when other national brands are renowned for shutting out the smaller fish?

Ancillaries

Floaties. Noodles. Diving sticks. Volleyball nets. Rafts. Beach chairs. When someone has a swimming pool, chances are they have pool toys, patio furniture, barbecue equipment, and party supplies to match. Where are people getting this “stuff”, and what are the trends associated with it? Again, as the economy improves, are people buying more summer fun niceties, or are people being more responsible with their money?

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