On a recent sunny summer day, “View From the Top” checked in with Don Riling, the new president of Olympic Hot Tub, a Seattle-based retailer. The topic was (surprise!) hot tubs, and in a short Q&A, he shared some observations. Here are excerpts:
Q: You’ve been at Olympic Hot Tub since 1995. As you think back over the last couple of decades, what are some things that stand out?
A: There’s a big misperception in the industry that this is still a luxury item instead of something people need for health and wellness, that it’s just a nice-to-have item or a dream item.
So much is done to get people to buy hot tubs, and then [retailers] don’t stay in contact with customers. … Get people into new products sooner, or if a new product comes on the market, tell them about it. I call it a ‘tub improvement project.’ It’s like when you buy a new sound system for your car, you get excited about your car all over again. [A new product] re-energizes them to talk to family and friends about hot tubs again and encourages them to keep using them. People will get the latest and greatest iPhone and car – why not the latest and greatest hot tub product?
Q: What sort of health benefits does Olympic Hot Tub promote to prospective hot tub buyers?
A: I don’t mention anything unless the customer brings it up. There are all sorts of reasons they may be there: They’re a weekend warrior and have an active lifestyle [so a hot tub would help to ease stress or aching muscles]; or maybe they want to attract grandkids to the house. And there are health-related reasons, such as arthritis, type 2 diabetes, restless leg syndrome and Raynaud’s syndrome. A New England Journal of Medicine study has shown that hot tubs can have a positive effect on type 2 diabetes, lowering blood sugar.
Q: Can you recall a funny or odd thing a customer has said or done?
A: One that I can talk about occurred one weekend when I was in the showroom. A customer called [and] said there was a leak in the hot tub. I asked where and she said, “In my backyard in Seattle.”