Continuing economic troubles coupled with bad weather in the Eastern half of the nation have kept the industry from seeing the turnaround it had hoped for this season.
New construction continues to struggle, with financing remaining a
challenge. Even the high-end market, which provides the most
opportunity, is being affected.
Renovation and service remain the strongest sectors, particularly
due to the fact that consumers now are starting to spend on items
they’d delayed purchasing.
“A lot of people have duct-taped those products together as
far as it can go,” said Robert Rankin, PoolCorp’s
general manager of Southern California.
While retail also performed well in many areas, the sector was
softer in the Eastern part of the country, which was plagued with a
In fact, the Northeast overall was one of the regions most affected
by weather. After a strong start in March, sales came to a halt
during an unusually wet April and May. For many dealers, the season
didn’t truly begin until around Memorial Day weekend,
especially in upstate New York and New England.
“We had a strong recovery in early June, and June was in
general a good month,” said Jon Hulme, PoolCorp’s
Northeast general manager. “July is looking good for this
time of year.”
Despite the weather, Northeast vendors report a slight uptick in
sales over the same time last year — 5 to 8 percent, one
distributor said. Some vendors even estimate new builds are up in
the single digits over last year.
Aboveground pools did particularly well in this region, with sales
rising 10 to 15 percent, vendors estimated. The product’s low
price and easy installation worked to its advantage as consumers
recalled last summer’s scorching temperatures. “We had
record-breaking heat in the Northeast — unbearable,”
said Chuck Arakelian, president of Baystate Pool Supplies in
Cambridge, Mass. So I think there was a carry-over mentally into
The Southeast saw its share of weather issues as well. However, the
region continues to hold steady, largely because of its relative
Georgia — particularly the Atlanta suburbs — may have
performed the strongest in the Southeast. The area, along with the
Carolinas, is seeing increased migration from Florida in a
phenomenon that some call “half-backs,” meaning
residents who had relocated to Florida from the north and then
decided to move part of the way back.
Still, Atlanta itself suffered the most foreclosures in the region
and remains stalled, said Mike Echols, regional manager for the
Southeast and Mid-Atlantic for Pentair Water Pool and Spa. Rural
Virginia and other lower- to mid-income areas also continue to lag,
particularly in vinyl-liner construction, Echols said. In this
region, vinyl-liner consumers are more likely to need financing,
which is still difficult to find.
Tornado-ravaged areas in Tennessee and Alabama are beginning to see
increased clean-up activity, he added, now that many residents have
repaired their homes and can focus on their backyards.
For its part, Florida continues to experience activity from
Northerners drawn by low housing prices. The local industry reports
an increase in new-pool construction of about 10 percent, with
approximately 300 more new pools being built so far this year. The
Southern part of the state is seeing a bump of approximately 13
percent, with the Lee County and Tampa markets proving the stronger
performers. The pool market in Dade/Broward, on the other hand, is
too saturated to accommodate much new construction.
Though pool service is performing relatively well, it’s
“not knocking it out of the park,” said Rick Postoll,
PoolCorp’s general manager of South Florida. Postoll, who
characterized the retail sector as relatively flat, added that,
“We’re so far down that being up is
In the center of the country, Texas also continues to hold steady.
The state has seen permits rise about 14 percent, said Cary
Mullikin, Zodiac Pool Products’ regional sales manager for
the Southern region. Distributors in Dallas report that numbers are
up 6 to 7 percent, while Austin suppliers are citing an increase of
20 percent in overall pool-product sales.
The three major pool markets to the West — Arizona, Nevada
and California — continue to suffer from some of the most
catastrophic foreclosure rates in the nation and are reporting
California observers report a year that is flat or a few percentage
points above last year. Coastal regions, such as Orange County and
the San Francisco Bay area, are holding steadier. Heavily
foreclosed areas such as Central California, from Modesto down to
Bakersfield, along with Riverside and San Bernardino counties,
continue to struggle.
“New construction is slightly down vs. last year,” said
Ernie Weigum, manager of SCP’s Rockland, Calif., branch,
located just north of Sacramento. “Right now, we are at about
95 percent of where we were in 2010. Permits in the Sacramento area
are slightly down compared to the same time last year.”
In Arizona, Tucson has experienced some growth, with overall sales
increasing approximately 14 percent, according to Jason Anderson,
Western regional sales manager for Zodiac. “Phoenix and
Scottsdale are pretty level with last year,” he added.
“It may be slightly up on new pool builds, but is level in
Jessy Goodman, Dan Schechner and Ben Thomas contributed
reporting to this article.