PHOTO: Hot Spring Spa of North County

Economic stability and the ability for customers to get the features they desire are increasing the popularity of mid-range spa units.

At Pride Pools, Spas & Leisure Products — with locations in Savannah and Claxton, Ga. — hot tubs priced from $5,000 to $6,000 are more popular now than in previous years. Of the more than 30 spas sold, 14 were in that mid-range price point, more than double what would normally be sold by this time of year. Several of those units were going to homeowners buildinginground pools.

“The spa traffic has been better than normal. Us selling them with the inground pools … that’s just unheard of for us,” said co-owner Sherry Buckman. Usually customers who buy inground pools buy an inground hot tub, not a portable one.

Overall spa sales were up 15 percent year-to-date by the end of May. The tub that’s selling the hottest for Buckman is one by Premium Leisure, priced just under $6,000. Last year, Pride started carrying Premium Leisure and Bullfrog hot tubs.

“Prior to last year, we were selling those three- and four-thousand dollar tubs — those very inexpensive tubs,” she added.

One of the reasons more consumers are opting for the mid-range spa over the lower- or higher-priced ones is what they get in those models.

“If you were to look at the [manufacturers] doing well in the mid-range, you’re going to find that they’re trying to put [in] as many of those things that they believe the consumer is looking for,” said Dominick Austin, vice president of sales and marketing at Premium Leisure, based in St. Petersburg, Fla.

The segment has gotten competitive as manufacturers who previously eschewed it introduced products and added features.

At Parnell Pool & Spa in Lumberton, N.C., customers are asking about specific features: LED lights, waterfalls and the number of jets.

“The mid-range spas have also evolved so much in terms of features that they’re not seeing as big a difference in having to purchase a much more expensive spa,” said Doug Geibert, general manager.

The store’s spa sales are steady, but the majority of this year’s sales — 80 percent – have been spas priced from $4,500 to $6,000.

Budget is playing a big part in those units moving out the door. Customers browse the high-end spas, but the mid-range is a better fit.

“When they may come in and we may show them a higher-priced spa, when we realize that their price point they’re looking to spend is a little bit lower and we bring them over, they will then ask, ‘Does this have a waterfall? Does this have this? Does this have that?’” Geibert said. “And when they find that they’re getting what their wish list is in terms of features, their apprehension gets reduced.”