PHOTO: Locey Swim & Spa Co.

“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.

My dad, Paul Locey, has been in the pool business since 1967.

He opened our first store and his inground pool building company in 1979. We opened the Kalamazoo location in 2010. Today, my dad oversees the business as its president.

When I was in middle school, he would bring me to the shop, and people would often find me outside hosing down DE filters and putting them in the cleaning tank. He had me doing all the dirty work.

But that hands-on experience paid off. Now, I’m continuing the family legacy by helping to operate our two storefronts. I also became a certified pool operator instructor in October and will be teaching CPO courses beginning this spring. My dad was quite proud of this accomplishment. 

Chemical connoisseurs

Our showrooms are fully loaded with aboveground pools and supplies, pool and spa accessories, hot tubs, parts, toys and all the other essentials. In fact, we moved our Portage store to a larger location just down the street from its original spot six years ago so we could accommodate more product.

We separate the store in two, with our pool products on one side and our hot tub models and accessories on the other. However, our main focus is chemicals, and people in town know us for that. Our customers really like what we carry, and we have a knowledgeable staff that can help with water quality issues. Chemicals have always been a huge category for us, so when we hire staff, we teach them everything there is to know about water chemistry.

Additionally, we tend to the chemical, equipment and parts needs for a number of schools and hotels in our area, and the commercial side of our business does very well. Service is another growing part of Locey. Three years ago, we bought a van and we’re much more equipped to travel to job sites.

Quick fix

We started stocking Ocean Blue’s Grand Entrance inground pool walk-in, drop-in step about two years ago, but we didn’t display it in the showroom. Instead, we would show customers a photo in a catalog and keep the actual step in the warehouse. Last season the store manager suggested we move one onto the floor, and I thought it was a great idea. We assembled one and positioned it a comfortable distance from the front door so it didn’t scream at customers when they walked inside.

There are a lot of older pools in our area, many of them 35 years and up, and if they belong to the original homeowner, those men and women are getting older, too. Many of these pools have the traditional stainless steel, three-tread ladder, and those can get a little tiring to use as you age.

While the Grand Entrance isn’t just for older people, that’s the group who really snapped to attention on this product. The step gives them a way to get in and out of the water comfortably, and it also refaces and updates the pool.

It’s kind of like a mini-renovation without all the mess because it’s something that you can simply drop in the pool. It just takes two anchors to attach it to the deck, so there’s not a huge construction project. It makes the pool a little more elegant and user-friendly for all age groups. The step comes with white plastic handrails but most people upgrade to stainless steel. It holds up to 800 pounds. Simply by displaying it inside, we have quadrupled sales. We now sell about five a month.

Extra yardage

We added aboveground pools to our store in 1984 and stopped building inground pools in 1989. To demonstrate some of the aboveground pool options, we have a yard with three functional pools on site. The yard is really neat because we are able to fit an oval pool and two round pools in different sizes, and it gives people a great way to see how big the pools are and how much space one will take up in their yard.

Weather permitting, the yard is open from late march or early April until October. For our shoppers who are in the market for an aboveground pool or accessories for one, Ocean Blue has the Mighty Step, which is a great seller for us, too. We display one every season on a pool in the yard, which helps to attract attention to the product.