While the hot tub market may not be as robust as in years past, plenty of spa dealers are still doing well.
Though there is no one-size-fits-all formula for spa-selling
success, what these firms have in common is a commitment to service
and strong family ties.
Here, the top-performing dealers of a handful of spa makers discuss
their history in the business and today’s hot tub market.
Suntek Pools & Spas
Master Spas’ Apex Award
For Robert Lucia, president of Suntek Pools & Spas in
Farmingdale, N.Y., being named the top dealer for Master Spas was
more of a reassurance that his firm is on the right track rather
than a surprise.
“As a company, we don’t focus directly on winning the
award,” he says. “Instead, we follow certain core
beliefs and a vision for how the business should run. In the end,
winning the award just validates what we do.” Suntek also
earned the Apex in 2009.
Part of that vision involves responding to the market and remaining
flexible in business practices. For
instance, though the company primarily serves Nassau and Suffolk
counties (encompassing all of Long Island, N.Y.), on occasion
Suntek will increase its sales radius when Master Spas does not
have a dealer in a nearby area. Lucia also modifies his showroom to
reflect current consumer needs.
“As the economy began to slip into recession, we adjusted our
floor models to display fewer ‘super high-end’ spa
models with TVs, etc., and displayed more units in the
$5,000-to-$8,000 [price range],” he says.
The firm has changed its marketing focus as well. Where he used to
rely more on print advertising, Lucia now has shifted a significant
portion of his efforts to the Internet, investing heavily in the
company’s Website. And while Suntek’s main demographic
is the 35-to-55 crowd, Lucia has also noticed yearly sales growth
in the over-55 age group — something he considers in his
sales plans, too.
Suntek may be very adaptive, but it still relies on the core values
Lucia introduced when he founded it in 1989 as a service business.
Since those early days, the company has expanded into hot tubs,
pools, renovations and other retail offerings.
“We continue to perform all of our service in-house, with our
own people and a fleet of well-stocked vehicles,” he says.
“As a company, we still stress service as a major reason to
buy from us.”
Valley Pools & Spas
Marquis Spas’ Marquis Cup
Larry Berczyk, president of Valley Pools & Spas in Burnsville,
Minn., had his nose so close to the grindstone over the last year
that he didn’t realize just how many portable spas his firm
“I knew we’d had a better year, but I had no idea we
were doing that well!” he says of winning the Marquis Cup,
the highest honor Marquis Spas bestows upon its dealers. “I
can’t pin it on anything but great service, and a lot of our
sales right now are repeat sales to current customers purchasing
new spas.” Berczyk also estimates his company has a closing
rate of at least 70 percent.
Valley’s dependable customer base comes in part from
longevity — the firm has been around since Berczyk’s
parents founded it as a service company in 1974. They began
carrying spas in the ’80s, and still work with some of the
same clients that bought the wooden tubs they originally stocked.
Now Berczyk owns the business with his sisters, Wendy and Heidi.
His children also work in the store, while his wife/advertising
manager Cheryl is adept at securing television, radio and newspaper
marketing spots on a limited budget.
“A lot of [our clients] have owned spas in the past and
bought them years ago,” Berczyk says. “They love the
brand and won’t go anywhere else.” He does offer some
floor-model and in-stock specials on hot tubs, but mainly relies on
a specialized pricing system that doesn’t work off MSRP to
Multiple locations also help. The company has branches in the
Minneapolis/St. Paul metro-plex, as well as a franchise in Hudson,
Wis. This allows them to serve most of the region.
“We’ve been able to back away from home shows, when we
used to do quite a few,” Berczyk says. “The multiple
locations make it easier to draw from a larger part of the
Ohio Pools and Spas
Hot Spring Spas’ Locksin Thompson Dealer of the Year
Cleveland-area Ohio Pools and Spas is a six-time Territory Dealer
of the Year for Hot Spring Spas, but this is the first time
they’ve won the top Locksin Thompson Dealer of the Year
prize. Nearly 800 retailers compete for the award annually.
“This is a group of elite dealers, so to win over them is an
incredible honor,” says owner/president Rich Annis. “We
were working really hard just to repeat our territory dealer win
for 2010, and then we found out we won the big award!”
Like other companies that have earned their manufacturer’s
highest honor, Ohio Pools and Spas depends on their long-term
market presence to draw new and returning clientele. Annis’
uncle launched the business in 1957, operating out of a single-car
garage when Annis came onboard in 1976. Soon they expanded to a
three-car garage, and they’ve been growing ever since.
The firm has sold the same hot tub brand for 30 years, which Annis
believes doesn’t happen much these days. And because his
staff is so familiar with the single spa line, customers know they
have in-depth answers to any questions that arise.
“Our staff act more as consultants than high-pressure sales
people,” he adds of his team. “Our philosophy is to
make it an easy and enjoyable shopping experience, not something
The company has three locations flanking the Cleveland metro area,
allowing for a broader client base. Providing options and
interactivity in each of those stores contributes to Ohio’s success.
“In comparison to the competition, we stand out for the
number of spa displays we have,” Annis says. “We show
all three series [of the brand], so there’s a lot to choose
from — from entry-level to very customized. And we keep a
full complement of spas filled and available for customers to try,
if that helps with their selection.”
Annis also has struck up partnerships with deck builders and other
backyard-industry professionals — part of what has
kept clients coming back even during tough times.
Bullfrog Spas of Ogden
Bullfrog Spas’ Top Dealer Award
Sometimes, an honor means more when it’s won against tough
odds. That’s how Shawn Maynard, owner and sales manager of
Bullfrog Spas of Ogden in North Ogden, Utah, feels about being
named top dealer for 2010.
“[This win is our] second year running, and in the two worst
years the spa industry has seen in a long time,” says
Maynard, who runs the business with co-owner Chris Bowen. “We
are working extra hard now for numbers like we saw before.”
Maynard attributes his company’s success to multiple factors.
One is a comprehensive marketing strategy that involves hands-on
interaction with the product and a move toward less-traditional
advertising opportunities. For instance, Maynard’s teenage
son is in charge of Bullfrog of Ogden’s social
networking initiatives, such as posting online videos of difficult spa
deliveries so clients know the company can handle challenging
installations. The firm is heavily involved with offsite events as
well, including tent sales and “mobile showroom” vehicles.
Another factor involves adapting to what Maynard calls a
“change in the shopping paradigm.”
“It used to be that a spa customer would find the store
nearest to their home and, if they generally liked the product and
hit it off with the salesman, they would probably pull the trigger
right then,” he explains. “Now, they feel that they owe
it to themselves to research the different brands and make sure
they are getting the best value.”
To combat the lack of commitment from first-time store visitors,
Maynard’s team has developed an in-depth follow-up plan to
remind the potential client what the company will do for them and
what they liked about the product. To further set his brand of spas
apart, Maynard offers live demonstrations of the jet system, as
well as its 30-day exchange program.
“It’s something very tangible that the customer can see
and appreciate,” he says. “They feel good about making
their purchase, knowing that they have a month to change it
Something else that makes people feel good about buying from
Bullfrog of Ogden is a sense of permanence the company promotes.
Though the firm only opened its retail location in 2005, the
110-year-old Historic Cannery brick building they purchased has
been a fixture of North Utah commerce for generations.
Maynard also rents space in the building to tenants who can drive
business to his store, and has another branch in nearby Layton,
Utah.“The feel of the building tells customers we are a big
part of the community,” he says. “It feels like
we’ve always been here and will be for many years to come.”