The year 2009 was a terrible one for the pool and spa market. But rather than focus solely on the negative, we decided to take a more upbeat approach by asking industry members to report the high points of their year and discuss what gives them hope for 2010.

As it turns out, they had plenty to say.

Stan Griffin


Griffin Pools & Spas

Columbia, S.C.

What was a bright spot for you in 2009?

We increased retail sales by far. The South had a great year in terms of weather — it was still 90 degrees in October, and we were selling chemicals.

We also did well in negotiating with manufacturers and vendors. We paid less than we did in 2008 for probably 90 percent of what we purchased. Some of that came from negotiating directly with the manufacturers and distributors, and some of it was rebate programs based on quantity ordered.

Also, even though many people weren’t able to obtain financing, it was encouraging to us that consumers wanted our products and were willing to spend the money. The demand is there.

What hopeful signs do you see for 2010?

A lot of the small strip malls that were vacant are starting to become leased. That’s encouraging. There is a small bank alliance here that does have some financing available for pools now, but it’s an unsecured loan, so the interest rate is really high.

We came in with an advertising campaign starting the first of November, where if you give us a $500 non-refundable deposit, we will build a pool for you at a guaranteed price anytime through June of 2010. So we will absorb any cost increases that are incurred by manufacturers or vendors.

We control our own destiny. Our company can be successful, even if the industry doesn’t do as well as we hope it will.

Ian Fyffe


Sparkling Pools and Harbor Hot Tubs Inc.

Sag Harbor, N.Y.

What was a bright spot for you in 2009?

A really positive attitude from my staff. My guys are just the greatest. They understand the economy and are all really grateful to be working — a lot of their friends don’t have jobs. Their enthusiasm really came through.

The other was a really cool way that we implemented cell phone technology so that I can be in more than one place at a time. We had been using the camera phones and sending pictures for a while, but now my construction crews and service techs will send me video from a job. When my technicians run into an issue in the field and either want to document it or get feedback from me or one of the other crew members, they can literally take a video and say, “This is my issue,” and talk while shooting. Then they can send it to my cell phone and I can see — and hear — what they’re talking about. It transcends language barriers and description barriers. I had one guy who heard a crazy noise in his heater, so he sent it to me and said, “What’s this noise?” I didn’t know, so I forwarded it on to my heater rep, and he called back and said, “It’s this, this and this.” It was unbelievable.

I also use YouTube now for longer videos. My clients are all over the place, and this gives us the ability to show them the work in progress.

What hopeful signs do you see for 2010?

I’m wired to be an optimist, period. Whenever I see something that’s bad, I look at that as being good, because it means there’s room for improvement. If everything was as good as it’s going to get and there’s no room for improvement, you’d be stagnant.

I talked to several building contractors just to see how they looked for winter, and they’re certainly not as busy as they used to be, but we’ve got projects to hold us through. Being in a summer resort community, we get busy in the fall, so pools will be ready in spring. So now we have the winter to do work. The clients worked all summer on a list of things they want done, and now we’ve got the winter to do it, and everything has to be done by Memorial Day. That’s the Hamptons routine.

Now, they’re once again talking about doing projects where, from the end of winter last season through the middle of summer, there weren’t a lot of new projects going on.

Carlos Majano


Majano Pools

Palmdale, Calif.

What was a bright spot for you in 2009?

[At our service company] the losses were toward the beginning of the year, and by February and March we started gaining a lot of new commercial clients. This has been one of our busiest years.

Getting those commercial customers was the high point, because the income there is a lot higher than from residential clients. We gained those through referrals. We’ve also gotten quite a few residential properties.

What hopeful signs do you see for 2010?

Based on the numbers I see in the newspaper and hear on the radio, it seems as if it’s turning around. Obviously there are still a lot of questions as to what’s going to happen, but it seems as though things are starting to improve, and hopefully in 2010 they’re going in the opposite direction. In the meantime, all we can do is provide the best quality service we can and hope that will help us through these hard times.

Bill Rowley


Rowley International Inc.

Palos Verdes Estates, Calif.

What was a bright spot for you in 2009?

I saw the downturn coming, so we went out of state to get more work. I guess the brightest spot is that we were able to anticipate this and maintain our workload. We have projects in the Seattle area, Portland, Ore., Idaho, Nevada and Texas, so we’ve moved around.

Also, we had a couple jobs that had been on hold but started progressing this year, including some historical restorations, which are a lot of fun.

What hopeful signs do you see for 2010?

We’re seeing commercial projects just going along. There’s been business in schools, which is one of the things that’s helped keep us busy, so we have jobs into 2010. People are building schools. I wouldn’t have thought they would, but they are. And some areas are developing their parks and recreation. We’re also picking up a lot of rehab work.

The other thing we’re seeing is that a lot of people are going with solar heating. You feel like you’re doing something right, because it isn’t smoke and mirrors — it really works.