Pool professionals in all niches of the industry are using the winter months to regroup, re-brand, and prepare for a productive swim season in the spring.

Although cold weather means a decrease in retail traffic and service calls, companies have no interest in hibernating — in fact, many have taken advantage of the downtime to refine strategies, perform market research and test all sorts of new ideas.

“We’re using the winter months to streamline our whole sales process,” said Jay Tucker, owner of Swim World Pools, a builder/retailer based in Gallatin, Tenn. “Our goal for next year is to offer customers more useful information than ever, in the most efficient ways possible.”

For Tucker, this means incorporating iPad apps into his store’s inventory system, allowing his team to perform real-time price adjustments on the floor. “That way, we can help our customers get to a buying decision more quickly,” he said. In addition, the staff at Swim World have been renovating the store, creating new displays and adding bright colors to create a fresh new look.

Presentation is equally crucial for online retailers, whose business also drops with the temperature. Many of these companies are spending the winter months developing and testing new branding approaches and advertising campaigns.

“We’re honing our approach, adding content to our Website, and refreshing our image for the new year,” said Les Greenfield, owner of HydroBlue Pools in Phoenix, a retailer whose tactics focus mainly on Web and mail campaigns.

Greenfield explains that the versatility of Web-based marketing allows his team to rapidly test and rework variations in text, wording, images and other aspects of their branding. By spring, they aim to be ready with a well-developed campaign spotlighting the most attention-grabbing products on the market. “Right now, that’s mostly energy efficient products,” Greenfield said, “so that’s what we’re putting front-and-center in our advertising materials.”

Some companies, however, are undergoing far more fundamental technological transformations this winter. For instance, Poolservice Co. in Arlington, Va., is currently migrating all its company data — from invoices to inventory — onto a new software platform.

“We’d been using the same old program since 1988,” said Paul Wahler, general manager. “And it’d been tweaked to do a lot of things in certain ways that we liked. So this winter, as we move all our data to the new software, we’re working to replicate all the little tweaks we’d made to our old program over the years.”

But Wahler expects the benefits to be well worth the effort: The new software is packed with cutting-edge tools for tracking costs and inventory, and its open-ended scalability ensures that the system can grow as the company continues to expand.

Indeed, it’s expansion that seems to be on everyone’s mind, as service companies, builders and retailers alike look forward to a promising 2012.“We’ve had a tough couple years,” Tucker said, “but now it’s time to gear up and get ready for opportunities. And I’m anticipating plenty of those once the spring starts.”