Joseph Solana Jr.


Carlton Pools Inc.

Warminster, Pa.

Lately we’ve been looking to increase our volume, so we added fiberglass and vinyl-liner pools to our lineup.

Sales of vinyl-liners have been steady. There’s certainly a demand here. And picking up that extra $25,000 to $30,000 in volume is important. But we’re just getting our feet on the ground — we’ve only had vinyl in our lineup for four or five months.

Though it’s been around for 30 years, fiberglass is still considered new for our market. It seems as though there are a few more buyers out there, but I wouldn’t say anyone is going like gangbusters.

One challenge is that people generally expect fiberglass to be less expensive than concrete. While it usually is, relatively speaking, it’s still expensive. So when consumers discover the price, our close rates tend to drop. That’s been a challenge in itself.

We’re also doing more to spread the word about our products. Our advertising budget is up 30 percent over last year.

We now display fiberglass at our Toms River, N.J., location, which not surprisingly is where sales are strongest.

We ask customers to tell us what they want. If they say, “I’m interested in a fiberglass pool, maybe concrete,” then it becomes a fiberglass lead. Same goes for concrete and vinyl.

Also this year, we opened three new stores, taking us into two new markets, Toms River and Millstone Township, N.J. One features eight display pools (two vinyl, two concrete, three aboveground and one fiberglass). The other is a strip store with no outside display. Both are about 11/2 hours away from our original location. We’re struggling like everyone else, but we’re there. Our third new store is in New Britain, Pa.

I opened the stores to bring in more business. It actually wasn’t that big an investment. Just do the math backward: Let’s say you churn out another 50 or 60 pools from an area that you weren’t in before. At $50,000 apiece, that’s $3 million.

Add to that any retail business you do, and you’re talking about a nice boost to the bottom line.