The Association of Pool & Spa Professionals has abandoned its nationwide hot tub campaign.
In the works since mid-2007, the ambitious Hot Tub Industry
Growth Initiative sought to reverse the downward trend in spa
sales. Its goal was to raise $10 million annually for mass-market
advertising, as well as education and certification programs.
Hurt by a lack of funding from hot tub manufacturers —
many of whom were battered themselves by the slumping economy
— the campaign never gained the momentum APSP leaders had
hoped would carry it through the early stages of
Association officials recently presented an alternate direction
for the initiative, which would have placed more emphasis on sales
training than marketing and promotion.
However, that too failed to gain traction.
“The support just wasn’t there,” said Lauren
Stack, APSP’s director of public affairs and industry
promotion, who helped spearhead the initiative. “We
didn’t have the groundswell of backing from the
All told, the campaign collected and spent more than $400,000 on
various research, planning and outreach projects in an effort to
buttress an industry that has seen revenues decline steadily since
The decision to pull the plug comes on the heels of a May 13
meeting of the APSP Hot Tub Council in Dallas, in which leaders
discussed rollout plans for the revamped campaign.
That meeting was followed by a Web-based conference call June 5
to announce the proposal to industry members.
But as early as July 2008, APSP officials had begun dialing back
the campaign’s goals. Steve Gorlin, Hot Tub Council chairman,
discussed curbing monetary objectives. Stack sensed trouble as
well. “I’m not getting any sort of feeling that
we’re moving in the right direction,” she said at the
time. “It’s frustrating.”
Just four firms by then had contributed start-up funds: L.A. Spas in Anaheim,
Calif.; Master Spas, Fort Wayne, Ind.; Marquis Spas, Independence, Ore.; and Beachcomber
Hot Tubs Inc., based in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada.
Last summer, APSP officials traveled to Southern California in
hopes of securing the backing of industry giants Jacuzzi/Sundance, based in Chino, and Watkins Manufacturing Corp. in Vista.
But support was not forthcoming.
“A lot of people had different ideas and opinions on how
[the initiative] should be run,” said Kathleen Carlson,
senior vice president of sales and marketing at Seattle-based
Aqua Quip. “No matter how hard they tried, they just couldn’t get
everyone to agree to it. And if you can’t get the big guys on
board, it isn’t going to work.”
One of the campaign’s sticking points centered around its
funding mechanism, which used a formula based on pump horsepower
that would have resulted in a fee for each spa. Some industry
members thought the emphasis on financial logistics moved the
initiative in the wrong direction.
“How you’re going to access the funds is
secondary,” said Andy Tournas, president of ThermoSpas Inc. in
Wallingford, Conn. “There was too much focus on how they
would acquire the money vs. how they would spend it. In a way, I
think they put the cart before the horse.”
Using the money that was collected up-front —
approximately $225,000 by mid-2008 — to develop a viable
advertising campaign may have helped garner more support, Tournas
Others just thought any initiative of this scope would be a
challenge to pull off in the spa industry.
“For a campaign like this to work, everybody has to
participate,” said Manuel J. Perez de la Mesa, CEO of
Covington, La.-based PoolCorp. “It’s fair to do a graduated
assessment, but you still need everyone in each segment of the
industry to participate.”
And for a category that’s largely fragmented, he added,
the odds of widespread participation became insurmountable.
In addition, dealers may not have seen eye to eye with the
campaign’s fundamental goals, Carlson said.
“Retailers never got it,” she said. “As a
retailer, it’s hard to create a demand; I can only fulfill a
The key was getting enough manufacturers to buy in and say they
believed in it, Carlson explained.
“And APSP was trying to create a demand,” she said.
“So that’s the quandary, and that’s what Lauren
really tried to present.
“But the research they did was amazing, and everybody
ought to take a look at it and take it to heart,” Carlson
“Ultimately, we’re not a need, we’re only a
want. If we get too far down the list, we’re going to go
away. That’s what Lauren was saying.”