Two years ago, Hanley Wood, our parent company, acquired Metrostudy, a firm that specializes in big data on housing. Thanks to that move, builders, developers, banks, manufacturers and retailers now have insight and more comprehensive information available before investing in real estate. The acquisition benefitted both companies — Hanley Wood now owned the country’s largest primary database of housing market information, and Metrostudy could leverage Hanley Wood’s national media and marketing strength to offer both customer bases a one-stop shopping experience. By all accounts, it’s a win-win. Likewise, the pool and spa industry is moving in the same direction. The recent consolidation trend within all segments of the industry, in the form of acquisitions and franchising, is healthy evidence of growth as we leave the effects of the Great Recession behind. This subject was top of mind when planning this, our annual State of the Industry issue. Rebecca Robledo offers an in-depth look at the myriad reasons for such activity and why it’s happening now. I hope you'll find it as fascinating as I did.

Another topic that came to mind when planning this issue involved multiple complaints Nate Traylor heard at the national IPSSA meeting. Many of the service technicians in attendance were upset about the growing practice of irresponsible “route flipping,” whereby unscrupulous techs would quickly build routes by luring in homeowners with unprofitably low rates — the sole purpose of which is to then sell the route for a profit. So what’s the problem? Click here to find out.

Lastly, there’s been a growing trend among retailers to offer more products encompassing the entire backyard. With that in mind, I’m pleased to debut a new column in this issue called “Backyard Style.” In it, we bring attention to backyard design and trends your customers are no doubt interested in. Our first guest columnist, Steve Benson from Saffire Grill, explains the science behind the popular kamado-style grill. This column will alternate with “In the First Person,” appearing in the first issue of the month. We hope you find the information useful and timely. Feel free to drop me a line with any suggestions for future columns.