PHOTO: Oasis Aquatech Pools

“Retail Raves” asks one retailer to specify a product that’s making a difference in his or her business. All professionals featured in this column are selected at random.

I’ve been in the pool industry since 1969, and started Oasis Aquatech Pools in 1983 with my wife, Tina, in the living room of our home. Ten years later, we opened our storefront, and then built a new showroom in 2002. I guess you could say we crawled before we walked. My son joined the family business in 2010 as vice president. Today, we run a successful pool building business in Louisiana, Texas and Arkansas, and operate our retail store in Northwest Louisiana.

Sales psychology

My crew and I built a 12,000-square-foot shopping and office center to house our current showroom.

We wanted to continue with our motto of “Helping Louisiana Enjoy Its Water Heritage Since 1983,” but we also wanted to preserve the South Beach Florida style that we brought to our community.

We live in a fairly insulated area, and many of our affluent customers desire a more sophisticated shopping experience. To cater to this clientele, we designed the 3,000-square-foot store to include many upscale features, such as a foyer with a second story mezzanine and offices that overlook the entryway. My wife hired a psychologist/designer who selected the wall colors based on the moods they would evoke in people, so all the departments are painted different shades, such as soft yellow, light tangerine, sea green and taupe.

We also arranged our inventory based on these colors and moods. Even the sales office is mint green, which supposedly instills confidence. Each section is then marked by a neon sign including toys, water testing and chemicals.

To top it off, we don’t store any chemicals in the retail area. Instead, we keep them in our warehouse, and only display empty containers to illustrate what we carry. As a result, I’ve never had anyone comment on a chlorine smell.

Backyard beauty

We build approximately 80 pools a year at an average price of $85,000, as well as ponds and fountains, outdoor kitchens, pool houses, retaining walls and other concrete work. Because many of our customers desire exclusive merchandise, most of the products we stock won’t be found at a typical pool store. Instead, most of our inventory has the look and feel of goods found in a specialty garden store.

To accompany the luxury pools we build, we sell a variety of accessories, including brass citronella torches, tile mosaic inlay patio tables and ceramic pieces. Additionally, we carry two higher-priced outdoor furniture lines, one of which is teak. Another item that is exclusive to our store is putting greens, which we began carrying 12 years ago. They are very popular in our area, where many residents are avid golfers. We incorporated one into a waterfeature just outside our store, and we keep putters there for people to try it out. Everyone loves it, especially the kids.

Free floats

The most popular items we carry are floating chairs and loungers by TRC Recreation. People like them because they are durable and unique to our area. The company also does a good job of accepting returns if there’s a defect, so we can warranty them. Currently we carry a few styles, including the Folding Chair, Folding Lounge and Softie Pool Float. We hang a few on display and stack them in boxes near the front of the store. People gravitate toward them because it’s the first thing they see when they walk through the door.

The chairs are made of thick layers of soft, closed-cell, vinyl-coated foam and an internal steel frame. They come in a number of colors including mauve, white, blue, kiwi, aqua marine and silver. Our most popular model is the folding lounge in aqua marine or blue.

With every upscale pool we build, we give away one or two floating chairs, which is the less expensive of the models we sell (they range in price from $128 to $200 each). It’s never failed that the customers we give the chairs to come back and purchase additional floats.