The contrast could not have been more stark. I was standing at the Pool & Spa News booth at the International Expo talking to an icon of the commercial aquatics industry, when an icon of the residential industry walked up. I took the opportunity to introduce the two and the subject quickly turned to drowning.
The aquatics professional wanted to know why the residential side of the industry wasn’t doing more to address the issue of childhood drowning. The residential professional seemed confused by the question. But when he spoke it was the commercial pro’s turn to be confused.
“Why should we focus on something that only affects a handful of kids each year?” I recall him asking.
Both the aquatics pro and I were shocked. Did he really not know that drowning is a leading cause of childhood death in the U.S.? Later, the aquatics pro said to me, “This is why I can never work with the residential side of the industry.”
That conversation happened more than five years ago, but it could just as easily have happened today. Not because one side or the other refuses to address childhood drowning, but rather because neither side is talking to the other.
When it comes to the issues that matter, commercial and residential pros could hardly be said to be working together. Sometimes it’s seems like public water isn’t even the same as residential water.
If both industries hope to continue growing, that needs to change.
Ultimately, what’s good for one is good for the other. The more people who know how to swim, the more people will be likely to want and need a pool in their backyard. Conversely, the more people have backyard pools, the more likely they are to seek out public venues for swim lessons and other water activities.
I’d love to see one of the major industry organizations reach across the aisle and develop a campaign that benefits both markets. The National Swimming Pool Foundation has come close with its “Step into Swim” campaign. But it's geared heavily toward the public sector and swim lessons. It would be great to see a “Got Milk” style marketing campaign that cuts across the divide.
Even better would be an industry summit of residential and commercial thought leaders getting together to figure out what they share in common and how they can help each other. That could really get people talking.