Veteran retailer John Paul believes that
inside every aboveground-pool owner is an inground-pool owner
waiting to get out. What he means is that just because someone is
on a budget and can’t afford an upscale gunite installation
does not mean he or she doesn’t still want lots of bells and
“My theory is that everyone wants an inground pool, but
not everyone can afford one,” says Paul, vice president of
Dover Pools & Supplies in Toms River, N.J. “But that
doesn’t mean they don’t want all those extras to
enhance [their aboveground pools].”
Over the past several years, product manufacturers have been
more than happy to quench the desire of aboveground-pool shoppers.
They produce a dizzying array of accessories, from automated
cleaners and sanitization systems to waterfeatures and LED lighting
Aboveground pool companies are producing a better quality and
more aesthetically pleasing product. More shapes, sizes and styles
are available than ever before. Plus, America’s backyards are
shrinking, building codes are becoming more restrictive and rocky
soil prevails on many properties. This makes aboveground-pool
ownership more attractive to consumers.
“When I started 20 years ago, there were just a handful of
designs,” says Tim Armstrong, a sales representative for
Pools & Spas in Tulsa, Okla. “Now they’re
broader in what they look like. They’ve even come out with a
stone-type top rail, so it looks like a rock feature. That has
broadened the customer base that will buy [an aboveground
Despite whatever trends may be in play, there will always be
aboveground-pool buyers looking to get the most for their money.
The challenge facing dealers is how to convince shoppers that these
upgrades are worth their consideration and won’t necessarily
shatter their budgets.
Here are seven tips that retailing veterans say will help you do
1. Get up close and personal with the
The key in upselling is the consumer’s perceived value. In
other words, they may be willing to spend more than they intended
to if they think the product warrants the extra expense.
“You have to show them the product in person,” says
Fred Giametta, co-owner of F&G Pool
& Stove in Newburgh, N.Y. “We show off all these
add-ons in our stores. I have them available to show people what
they are and what they do. They have to know about costs vs.
advantages and how [the add-on product] will help them in their
Some of the technology and its value can be difficult to convey
via ads or word of mouth. But once a person is in the store and can
see and touch the product — and receives an educational
demonstration from the sales staff — he or she begins to
understand the product’s value from a pool owner’s
“You can show them a brochure all day, but if you
don’t have the product to touch and feel, it makes it so much
more difficult to sell,” Paul says.
Armstrong says he sets up the Fiesta Pools & Spas showroom
to attract customers and draw attention to these special features.
He presents eye-catching displays that are visible from the street
from a variety of angles.
He also adds lighting systems for a more dramatic appearance and
presents various upgrades throughout the displays. “We put
the pools on display to play those aspects up,” Armstrong
says. “[The displays] pull the people in.”
2. Make news.
How does a dealer reach out to a wider population? John Bullard,
owner of Leisure Lifestyles in Columbus, Ga., keeps a database
of aboveground-pool owners and shoppers, and targets them via a
newsletter. The missive plays up all of the new aboveground
add-ons, encouraging customers to stop by the store for a demo.
“In our newsletters,” Bullard says, “we talk
about the newest and greatest stuff that will enhance their
[pool-owning] experience — things such as pool cleaners, salt
generators, slides and lighting.”
The newsletter is a way to present products to consumers without
sounding like an aggressive sales pitch. Instead, customers feel
more like they belong to an exclusive club whose members are privy
to the latest information and VIP discounts.
3. Place accessories on sale.
If you’re trying to bring an entire product niche to
consumers’ attention, what better way to do it than by
putting it on sale? The aforementioned newsletter is a good way to
nurture the idea of specialty sales for a target group of
customers, but holding general sales for these new accessories also
introduces them to the shopping public.
“We run discounts for the salt generators for aboveground
pools all the time,” says Kenny Perry, owner of Perry’s Pool
Shop in Seymour, Ind. “Since these are new [products], we
send fliers out to pool customers, and they’ll come in and
want to talk about it. It’s basically a direct-mail campaign,
and we generally do it in the springtime — especially when
it’s something new like this.”
Periodically, Perry runs sales for most of his aboveground-pool
add-ons, including heaters, lighting systems, waterfeatures and
automatic cleaners. The cleaners, in particular, sell well during
these promotions, he says.
“We hit them early in the spring with all kinds of
promotions [for aboveground- pool accessories],” Perry says.
“We’ll have things such as ‘Buy a pool, get a
free automatic cleaner.’ We start with our own flier and then
follow it up with the manufacturer’s flier. The next thing we
know, we have this big follow-up [from the customers].”
4. Add a touch of class.
Another way to draw potential customers into your store is to
provide classes and workshops that illustrate how the add-ons
Perry’s store offers a chemical school to help pool owners
balance their water, as well as deal with sanitization issues. He
uses these classes as a way to spark discussion about salt
chlorinators and other aboveground pool add-ons.
Once the level of customer interest is determined, classes on
specific products sponsored by the manufacturer are scheduled.
“The customers come in and the manufacturer displays the
product and shows them how it works,” Perry says. “It
always looks better when [the manufacturer] is there.”
Perry notes that salt chlorinators are popular in the Midwest
right now and customers long to learn more about them. But once
they’re in class to discuss the sanitizing system, he turns
them on to even more cutting-edge aboveground-pool accessories.
“We can also talk about pool cleaners and all kinds of
other things,” Perry says.
5. Play up safety and convenience.
It’s all well and good to show curious customers the new
products and explain what they do, but you still need an angle that
will hook them. Remember the aforementioned perceived value idea?
Nothing says “value” about a pool product better than
safety and convenience.
Bullard notes that “whether they’re budget-conscious
or Donald Trump, they want their life to be easy.” So the
idea of covers, alarms and lockable ladders will always entice pool
Tom Fecteau, general manager of Budget Pools in
Peabody, Mass., agrees with Bullard. Convenience is a nice selling
point, he says, even for those who are bargain hunting.
“They love the convenience stuff,” he says.
“They like automatic cleaners and sanitizers — anything
needed to care for the pool. If it’s automated, they like
Fecteau says he promotes safety and convenience in all of his
advertising and marketing efforts “because we know that is
what they’re after. Most of our ads are in the local papers
and spring fliers, and we play up the time-saving convenience of
these products, along with the safety issues. We tell them,
‘You don’t have to put your hands on it and the kids
can’t get at it.’”
6. Sell “bundles of joy.”
One way to sell aboveground-pool accessories is by rolling them
into various packages. You can combine them with a specific pool
model, and then sell everything for one discounted price. This
strategy, also known as bundling, has been successful for many
“We have a price for a completely installed aboveground,
and the package we like to start them with is a little above
average as far as the quality of the pool and number of accessories
is concerned,” says Bob Sullivan, owner of 21st
Century Pools in Vestal, N.Y. “We also have fully
automated packages.” Those bundles include items such as
automatic sanitizers and cleaners.
The system has some flexibility, Sullivan notes. If a bundled
package is still too expensive for a customer, his staff is able to
remove products. “We can unbundle and use a smaller filter,
but we prefer to work up and add on stuff,” Sullivan
His store also boasts a well-trained, professional sales staff.
“They’re not just clerks behind a counter,” he
says. Thus, he allows them discretion when it comes to how the
bundles are configured.
“I let them have some latitude and include what they
want,” Sullivan says. “They are professionals and I
trust their instincts. Each salesperson is different.”
What are the most popular add-on items in his bundles? Sullivan
says they’re the new, heavier beaded liners and underwater
in-wall lighting systems. “These are the things the customer
should have anyway,” he says.
7. Give them credit.
One way to sell an aboveground loaded with upscale accessories to a
budget shopper is to use credit terms.
“How do you make it affordable? Through financing,”
Bullard says. “They want the add-ons and to enhance their
pool, and you can do that through financing — on the initial
package or for add-ons they may need farther down the
Bullard’s store uses several programs, including Aqua
Advantage (financed through GE) and the Wells Fargo Splash card.
“We always have customers in the store flashing their
cards,” he says.
One way to convey affordable financing to budget shoppers is to
tout low monthly payments on various packages. “We advertise
monthly payments,” Sullivan says. “We place an ad in
the paper that says something like, ‘You can buy this pool
for just $99 a month,’ with a general description of the
features that come with it.”