Hot tub manufacturers take note: Now, two advocacy organizations will be asking for your support.
In late January, the APSP Hot Tub Council met in Atlantic City, N.J., where the group announced continuing plans for its Hot Tub Industry Growth Initiative. Meanwhile, officials with the newly formed International Hot Tub Association (IHTA) marked their own milestone by the famed Boardwalk, holding the group’s first board of directors meeting and ratcheting up efforts to boost membership.
It’s enough to make any U.S. spa supplier feel like the prettiest girl at the dance.
“This industry has a lot of people with a lot of different interests,” said Anthony Pasquarelli, communications director with Sundance/Jacuzzi and member of APSP’s Hot Tub Council. “APSP has been an industry advocate for many years. And though the [IHTA] is still in its infancy, there are a lot of positive things that could come out of it.
“We certainly don’t view the two groups as being mutually exclusive to one another,” he added.
Founded in November 2008 by ThermoSpas chief Andy Tournas, the IHTA was created to help the spa industry better prepare for new, some would say invasive, legislation, as well as to promote the product itself.
“There’s nothing wrong with APSP, but [with IHTA] we’re talking about an organization that’s 100 percent dedicated to hot tubs,” Tournas said.
Joining Tournas (president) on the group’s newly established board of directors are: vice president Mike Dunn of Watkins Manufacturing, treasurer Cindi Magray of Spa Manufacturers, executive director Mitch Brooks of the National Plasterers Council, and members Steve Hammock of Watkins, Sue Sousa of Sunstar and Howard Smith of Pleatco.
According to Tournas, the group’s short-term goals for the coming months include: instituting a monitoring program to track the latest proposed legislation; reaching out to the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) to offer input on new regulations; and working to change the official definition of hot tubs under the International Residential Code (IRC).
The group also expects in the next 30 days to debut its Website, www.internationalhottubassociation.com. In addition, IHTA’s board will expand to 12-15 members, and open positions should be nailed down by early summer.
While each organization regards the other with polite deference, lines in the sand are beginning to appear. IHTA board members, for one, feel there’s a need for an association that more clearly differentiates hot tubs from pools.
“I think APSP is working hard, but their plate is too full,” Hammock said. “With APSP, I feel like we’re being forced to solve problems that don’t exist for [the spa] industry. We’re like the dolphin that got caught in the tuna net. A better job needs to be done.”
Ultimately, what the IHTA means to APSP’s fundraising efforts remains to be seen.
Those efforts have been continuing. More than 40 industry members representing 25 different companies attended the APSP Hot Tub Council meeting. The concept behind the group’s growth initiative is to “promote and protect the hot tub industry in these severe economic times,” stated Lauren Stack, APSP’s director of public relations and industry promotion.
The initial monetary goal already has been revised from a hoped-for $8 million to $2 million. “We can no longer sit idly by and wait for our category to either turn around on its own, or to fade away completely,” Stack said. “We will do what we can do with whatever monies we collect.
“We [lowered the target] because a number of manufacturers are having a tough time getting paid by their dealers,” she added. “A lot of them are having cash-flow problems right now.”
In the works since mid-2007, APSP’s Hot Tub Council has spent more than $400,000 on various research, planning and outreach projects. It’s now entering what Stack calls “the implementation stage.”
“We’ve already determined what the industry’s problems are and how we’re going to address them — now it just hinges on how much we can do with what we’re able to get,” she said. “We’re confident it will move forward in some fashion.”
The next two months will be critical, as Stack plans to blitz an array of companies for participation. Part of that pitch will be a presentation that illustrates what’s possible once the campaign hits certain benchmarks: “This way they can see what’s being covered at various levels of participation.
She added that ideally the group would like to have committments in hand by March 31.
With her stated goal of 70 percent industry participation, Stack knows that’s no small undertaking.
“Regardless, we’re going to see something soon,” she said.