A surge in regulations governing inflatable pools has industry
But while this recent spate of fencing and permit requirements
has hit cities across the country, it isn’t lost sales that
worry pool and spa professionals.
Instead, dealers are apprehensive about the long-term backlash when
employees at big-box stores fail to inform customers of local codes
requiring safety products, which can add considerably more to a
relatively low pool purchase price.
The result, many fear, will be a souring on the experience of
“These are our future customers,” said Blair Lynch,
director of operations at Mermaid Pool, Spa & Patio in
Anderson, Ind. “People start out owning these inflatable
pools to see if they’ll use them, whether the kids like them
— that sort of thing. Then they’re told to take them
down or invest hundreds or thousands more dollars into them, and
they may decide against owning one down the road.”
Inflatable pools have grown in popularity in recent years due to
the product’s attractive price point and ease of use.
“It brings people into the market because it’s below
entry-level price,” said Ed O’Hair, owner of Casual
Patio in Katy, Texas, who doesn’t carry inflatables but does
encounter customers who own them.
Indeed, specialty retailers — including those that may not
sell inflatable pools — often do sell steel- or aluminum-wall
above-ground vessels to inflatable owners. For example, Fun Center
Pools & Spas in Mansfield, Ohio, has made three or four such
sales already this year, according to service coordinator Angie
But city councils from New York to Texas have proposed or
revised ordinances of late to require owners of pools more than 18-
or 24 inches high, in many cases, to install fences, self-locking
devices and alarms. Some locations also mandate grounded electrical
hookups or additional permits.
Sinclair and others generally support the added safety measures,
but question whether mass merchants such as Walmart or Sam’s
Club properly inform customers of the added expenses they may
Representatives from Walmart did not respond to requests for
Mermaid, which doesn’t sell inflatable pools, nonetheless
finds value in buyers of the product. Lynch said many frequent his
store for water-testing services, chemicals and even enhanced
“Probably one of the strongest categories for us that
we’ve been able to capture for these pools is selling
[owners] upgraded pump and filter systems,” he said. For
Lynch and others, however, there’s greater significance
beyond opportunities to boost the bottom line.
“The important thing for us really is educating people
about water safety and why these laws are in effect,” he
said. “As pool pros, that’s really where we need to
come in — to stress the importance of these things and make
sure they’re aware of all the aspects of owning a