As the Texas economy largely continues to keep its head above
water, more pool companies are looking to open shop there.
Two years ago, Texas saw a migration of small- and medium-sized
pool and spa companies into the state as the markets collapsed in
Florida, Arizona, Nevada and California. Now, at least three larger
Western firms — all Pool & Spa News Top 50 Builders — have either established new
branches in Texas or are considering doing so.
“The market has been able to withstand the economic downturn
much better than the areas that we were doing business in, namely
Arizona and Nevada,” said Sam Lewis, general manager of
Paddock Pools and Spas in Scottsdale, Ariz.
“The big housing collapse didn’t happen there like it
has in the other areas, so people still seem to have some equity in
their homes. Employment relative to the rest of the country is
still high. There’s a lot of new and good business there;
there’s still growth and some home building taking
Earlier this year, the megabuilder entered the market by default
when it acquired Tempe, Ariz.-based builder Pacific Pools, which
had opened offices in Austin and San Antonio approximately two
Also, Premier Pools and Spas of Rancho Cordova,
Calif., entered into a licensing agreement with Bill Unger to open
a Houston office. This is the start of a new program that the firm
plans to roll out more extensively later in the year. Officials at
California Pools , based in West Covina, Calif.,
said they are also considering adding Texas offices to their
network of licensees, franchisees and company-owned offices
throughout California and in Phoenix.
Paddock and Premier report success so far. “We were
encouraged [that] we had a very high percentage of builds to sales,
little fallout over financing problems or equity problems,”
Lewis said. “The profit margins are also substantially higher
in that area.”
Premier reports generating $1 million in sales in its first four
Paddock and Premier express an interest in growing in the state as
well. “We’re also looking at probably expanding into
Houston and the Dallas area coming up on next year,” Lewis
said. “That doesn’t necessarily mean we’re going
to open there. Right now we’re doing our due
Premier has its eye on Dallas, San Antonio and Austin for potential
new licensees. “It’s going to be dependent on whether
or not we put together the right teams, either by getting an
existing pool builder or bringing our own teams,” said Paul
Porter, the company’s president.
It would be an exaggeration to say the state has gone unscathed,
but Texas has fared better than most, with Houston currently the
strongest market, according to area builders.
“We still have the oil companies here, and I think people
know business is still doing OK,” said J.R. Richard, CEO of
Richard’s Total Backyard Solutions in Houston, a Pool & Spa News
Top 50 Builder . “They’ve been making
money, and they’re fairly stable.”
But despite Texas’ relative resiliency, some parts of the
Lone Star State have seen a significant downturn, with Dallas being
the hardest-hit. Ironically, it’s one of the most competitive
areas as well.
“Right now on the permit report, there are over 435 pool
builders in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex,” said Debra
Smith, president of Pulliam Pools in Fort Worth, a Pool & Spa News Top 50 Builder . “The market and competition is
already so tight that I can’t imagine someone trying to move
into this area. There have been builders leaving.”
As for whether these big players will make a difference, some area
builders say homeowners are more receptive to well-established,
locally owned companies. For their part, the newcomers are betting
consumers will be drawn to bigger firms.
“I think the marketplace is ready for a high-quality,
national presence there because the licensing requirements are so
lax in Texas,” Porter said. “A lot of people have been
burned, so they’re looking to do business with national,
However, it’s too soon to speculate right now, Richard said.
It could just be business as usual.
“Every year new builders pop up,” he explained.
“And there are [always] guys going out of business, so when
new companies come into the Houston market they’re just going
to replace the guys who [went out of business] last year from the