|1||Paddock Pools and Spas||$35,950,000||$33,000,000|
|3||Patio Pools & Spas||$7,700,000||$7,700,000|
|5||Griffin Pools and Spas||NEW TO LIST||$4,260,000|
Businesses both large and small struggled to keep their doors open,
often discounting inventory at a rate that would have been
unthinkable just one year earlier.
And the pool industry was hardly immune.
“We knew we were in for a tough year and did not expect
‘business as usual,’” says Dave McKibben, retail
and spa division manager for Patio Pools and Spas in Tucson, Ariz.
But in spite of the faltering economy, a number of Top Builders
saw positive signs from their retail divisions in 2008. A few even
held steady against, or surpassed, the previous year’s
revenue. Here’s a look at three successful
builder/retailers and the strategies they used to stay ahead.
Patio Pools and Spas
In ‘08, Patio Pools and Spas changed its store design and
product focus in multiple locations to better suit individual
markets. For example, the shop closest to the University of Arizona
specializes in swimwear, while the Northwest location, which caters
to an older demographic, largely focuses on patio furniture.
“This allows each store to utilize its square footage
according to…customer profiles, as opposed to a canned
corporate layout,” McKibben says.
The firm, which runs four retail stores in Tucson and another in
Sierra Vista, equaled its ‘07 retail revenue in ‘08
with $7.7 million.
But Patio’s greatest strength may lie in its ability to
capture specific consumers. Last year the firm identified a handful
of promising groups and decided to tailor advertising and in-store
product and POP displays to these targets. The potential
clients included former service route customers, salt-pool owners
and clients of defunct competitors.
“Many pool builders…tend to
‘overpromise’ easy pool care when selling salt
systems,” McKibben says. “We’ve seen a big
increase in salt pools recently, as well as frustrated
So how does he target this group? Patio’s customized
software allows it to hone in on individual customer sanitizer
preferences – be they for SilkTabs, chlorine pucks or salt
“The more specific your advertising is, the higher return
you’ll enjoy,” he says. “After all, there’s
no sense sending a puck ad to a salt pool owner. And this was
certainly a year to maximize the effectiveness of your ad
Pools of Fun
At Pools of
Fun in Plainfield, Ind., “downtime” is a foreign
concept. Each of the builder’s five retail stores in the
suburbs of Indianapolis plays host to a noteworthy event seemingly
A new early bird-sale in February has helped jump-start the season,
says Debbie DeVault, general manager for retail stores at Pools of
Fun. And a regular preseason sale in March is followed by a
week’s worth of consumer pool school in April, where a
BioGuard representative and service technician review equipment and
answer questions in an informal yet instructive setting.
This year’s course drew 150 attendees, DeVault says.
A recent four-day Mother’s Day sale tripled the firm’s
retail revenue over the same period last year. And in mid-June,
each store hosts an annual Meet & Greet — another
opportunity for customers to view products up-close and interact
with manufacturer’s reps.
The company in 2008 recorded $3.4 million in retail revenue, on
pace with the previous year’s figures. But that’s no
reason to rest easy, DeVault says. She continues to build on the
store’s core capabilities while introducing new services when
business demands it. Case in point: aboveground pools.
“This year we hired a full-time employee for aboveground pool
installs,” she says. “We sold a bunch of the
aboveground kits last year, and now we’re doing the installs
DeVault’s latest initiative is a mobile water-testing
station that she expects to be up and running by late summer 2009.
The vehicle is outfitted, the hardware wired — all
that’s left is hammering out staffing and scheduling issues,
Carlton Pools Inc.
Much of Joe Solana Jr.’s retail success in ’08 can be
summed up in two words: aggressive expansion. The president of
Pools Inc. in Warminster, Pa., oversaw his company’s
segue into three new markets, including the home of what was
formally Dover Pools, a 9,000-square-foot space in Toms River,
“That store was a good performer,” Solana says.
“It’s what gave us a big shot in the arm.”
That shot in the arm helped Carlton post healthy gains ($4.1
million vs. $2.8 million) over its ’07 retail numbers. The
company now has eight retail stores throughout Pennsylvania and New
Solana concedes his impressive sales figures are likely due as
much to new vistas and a relatively stable local economy as any
inspired retail strategies.
“We didn’t feel it like the major markets,” he
says. “Things here were as good or better than anywhere from
D.C. to Connecticut. This area has held together pretty