slump in pool sales has left at least one aspect of the industry
relatively unscathed: the market for covers. By most accounts, the
product is immune to discouraging news.
Whether it’s for safety, convenience, aesthetics —
or a combination of all three — traditional and automatic
pool covers are proving more popular to consumers each
Many manufacturers, retailers and builders report that cover sales
are up this year, from 10 percent to 15 percent. “Covers have
a proven track record across the board,” says Tom Dankel,
vice president of Aquamatic Cover Systems in Gilroy,
Frank Patel says that his company has increased cover sales by
15 percent annually in the past five years. “As years go by,
people like our covers,” says the president of Pegasus
Products in Branchburg, N.J.
One thing helping drive the growth in pool covers is a renewed
focus on safety. State legislatures across the country are
increasingly mandating multiple layers of protection to decrease
the risk of drowning. Just building a fence around a pool is no
longer good enough. Thus, safety covers are offering extra peace of
LeeAnn Donaton-Pesta says she’s seen a “dramatic
increase” in demand for mesh covers over the past five years.
In fact, says the CEO of Loop-Loc Ltd. in Hauppauge, N.Y.,
purchasers are “pretty much across the spectrum. It used to
be just high-end buyers. But now you see more lower-end [shoppers],
and middle-class families with children and pets, buying the
The effects of natural wear and tear on covers also helps keep
business brisk, says John Romano, president of All American Custom
Pools & Spas in Norwalk, Conn., aPool & Spa News
Top Builder. “It’s like anything else,” he says,
adding that cover installations at his company are up 10 percent
this year. “Pools are aging and covers are as well. They
don’t last forever.”
Others agree. “What we may have over pool builders is
that we have a re-cover business; covers need to be replaced. You
don’t build a replacement pool,” says Brian Hatfield,
regional sales manager at Anchor Industries Inc. of Evansville,
Ind. “Every time a pool is built, we have potential
While safety concerns are important to consumers, so is saving
energy in today’s greener political and social climate. Less
water evaporates from a pool with a cover, especially an automatic
one that can be easily unfurled when the backyard is idle. A pool
with a cover also is easier to keep chemically balanced and
These benefits are increasingly resonating with the pool-buying
public. “Consumers and builders recognize the safety value.
But more and more people see the return on investment the covers
have in respect to energy savings through reduced operating
costs,” Aquamatic’s Dankel says.
Not all markets are buoying the pool cover segment, though.
“This year, business has dropped off a little bit,”
says Dick Rayner, president of Rayner Covering Systems in South
Elgin, Ill. “It’s tied to the fact that dealers have
been concentrating on automated pool covers and those are tied into
With mortgage rates rising, and fewer Americans taking out
home-improvement loans to build pools, it tightens the cover
market. “With the drop-off of new pool building, I think the
pool covers have taken a dip,” Rayner says.
“That’s been our experience.”
Innovation on the edges
Manufacturers, builders and retailers acknowledge that there
hasn’t been much pool cover innovation in recent years, at
least, nothing dramatic. Maybe better fabric, stitching or quality
springs and anchors have emerged, but every improvement, no matter
how small, counts.
“It’s the little stuff,” says Dave Buchman,
manager of Don Marcum’s Pool Care in Newtown, Ohio.
“Something as simple as the bracket that holds up the lid is
so improved over what we had in the past.”
Probably the most growth has been in automatic pool cover
development. Still, such changes appeal mainly to upscale
“As covers are growing, it’s still a somewhat niche
market,” Dankel says. “So unlike computers and LCD TVs,
people don’t know anything about pool cover technology. They
just want to know that it opens and closes while keeping their
pools safe, warm and clean.”
Nevertheless, consumers also want to feel confident that the
covers they choose will protect any pool design, even complicated
ones. The days of the standard rectangular pool are fading, and the
cover market has had to adjust.
A common complaint of builders years ago was that the demand to
incorporate a pool cover in the design crimped their creativity.
But a few manufacturers make automatic covers that can accommodate
almost any vessel shape — even vanishing-edge pools —
which makes it easier to sell the feature to the
“That’s the fun stuff,” says Tim Lillpop,
general manager of Anchor Industries Inc. “That’s where
our custom products come into play.”
Manufacturers say that the vast majority of their business is
involved in making covers for custom pools. “I’d say
it’s at least 80 percent,” Loop-Loc’s
Donaton-Pesta says. “And out of that 80 percent, about 40- to
50 percent have custom treatments such as rocks, waterfalls, caves
and bar stools.”
Manual safety cover manufacturers are increasingly melding
style with functionality. “The trend in pool covers continues
to be focused on aesthetics and customization,” says Jenn
Blum, marketing director at Cover-Pools Inc. in Salt Lake City.
“The latest technology includes advances in automation, from
wireless operating controls to accessory-feature
Pegasus Products’ Patel says many of his customers demand
that covers accommodate complex pool designs. “More pools
have waterfalls and all kinds of stuff,” he says. “We
have to provide for that in an adequate manner, which has been a
key to our growth.”
Covering the future
Education is the key to keeping the pool cover market humming, many
industry insiders say. “In-person sales presentations are the
best way to market new cover technology,” Blum says.
“The salesperson can help the customer truly understand the
benefits of the new technology.”
Yet, as in any aspect of consumer activity, what was once
complicated and seemingly a luxury — think iPods and home
theater systems — can become a routine part of American life.
Pool covers are no exception.
“The biggest trend is that 10 years ago, you’d have
to be a pretty educated consumer to know about automatic pool
covers,” Don Marcum’s Buchman says. “Today,
anybody who’s shopping for a pool has somehow heard of, or
knows someone who has, an automatic cover. It’s grown so much
in the industry now.”
The state of the spa cover market.
How to fit covers over upscale features.
Better customer communication prevents problems.
Troubleshooting tips for automatic pool covers.