Looking closely at customer’s buying habits helped one retailer make strategic expansion plans.

Valley Pool & Spa, located in the greater Pittsburgh area, wanted to open a new location and was outgrowing its existing warehouse when store officials started looking for new retail space. They chose Washington, Pa. with a second new store in Charleroi, Pa.

“There were two areas of the Pittsburgh market that are rapidly growing,” said Eric Cassidy, vice president of Valley Pool & Spa. “… We ended up picking the Washington area because the properties are larger, the home values are higher and there is almost no retail vacancy space for about a 10-mile radius of where our Washington store will be located. It’s just a very fast-growing area.”

But also influencing the decision to open a Washington store are the analytics from the company’s business management software, RB Control Systems, which is also owned by Valley Pool & Spa owner Corrine Kraft.

When looking at customers’ buying patterns, interesting details emerged. Valley Pool & Spa was making initial chemical sales to customers from the Washington area at the beginning of the season, but wasn’t doing any repeat business for in-season purchases.

“They enjoy the shopping experience at our stores; they enjoy the uniqueness of our company,” Cassidy said. “… Obviously, they don’t want to make the trek for all their needs throughout the season.”

The second new store was serendipitous: Cassidy said the new warehouse location already had an existing retail space and is on a main route, so Valley Pool & Spa decided to try an express store at that location. The store will sell the main necessities, including chemicals, some maintenance supplies and a small selection of parts, equipment and toys.

“I think what they’re doing is sort of proof of … a real passion for the industry,” said Sean Corscadden, executive sales manager for Langley, B.C.-based Coast Spas. “They’re looking at ways of doing business more efficiently, more effectively and growing their business. … They see some markets that they don’t have representation in in their area, and they’re doing something about it.” Coast Spas is the main spa line that Valley Pool & Spa carries.

The September opening of the Washington store isn’t ideal, Cassidy said, but the landlord of the retail complex — which is a redeveloped mall — requires all the stores to have the same grand opening. In the fall, Valley Pool & Spa stores carry Halloween items, so the store will open ready for that business. During the winter, the store will convert to pool and spa offerings and have a season grand opening in March.

“Valley is one of the most progressive retailers in our industry,” said Mike Schrag, regional sales manager for Youngstown, Ohio-based GLI Pool Products. “We are excited about their expansion and want to congratulate them on their continued growth.”