Photo courtesy Automatic Pool Covers Inc.

While it’s fair to say that just about every product category is selling off the shelves, so to speak, covers hold a particular appeal during these times.

In a survey of this year’s PSN Top 50 Builders, respondents said that products meant to extend the season comprised some of the hottest sellers. Nearly 50% categorized covers, heaters and other such products as some of their hottest sellers. This category came second only to “wow factor” features. As families had to hunker down, it seems, they at least wanted to get the most of their backyard pools and spas.

Reports from manufacturers seem to back that sentiment, with every one showing record numbers. Here, they discuss how safety and automatic covers are selling, along with some trends and predictions.

Steep Rise

Not surprisingly, manufacturers of both automatic covers and safety covers report massive increases in 2020 and 2021.

While industry-wide statistics are not available, anecdotal evidence suggests this will be fairly consistent throughout the industry. “No statistics, but general conversations with people show all manufacturers are seeing growth and increased demand,” says Tom Dankel, vice president of Aquamatic Cover Systems in Gilroy, Calif.

Statistics from individual manufacturers back this up. Automatic Pool Covers Inc., saw a 42% year-over-year rise in sales last year, while it is on track to sell 30% to 35% more covers this year than last.

“After the scare from March and April’s large decline in sales [in 2020], our end-of-year sales outpaced our expectations,” says Michael Shebek, CEO of the Westfield, Ind.-based company.

Rayner Covering Systems, a maker of safety covers in South Elgin, Ill., reports a 20% increase last year, with another jump of 15% to 20% expected for 2021.

Tara Pool and Outdoor Products reported a 43% jump last year in sales of its safety covers, with an increase at presstime of 56% over the same time in 2020.

Manufacturers expect this year’s sales figures to show a steep hike from last year’s already-high numbers. Meyco Pool Covers, for one, gives partial credit to an anticipated extended selling season.

“Sales continued to be robust in 1Q and 2Q 2021,” says Phil Saltzman, director of sales for the Melville, N.Y.-based safety cover producer. “Typically sales are mainly in the summer/fall period, however with early year sales so strong overall, we are forecasting a healthy increase over last year’s success.”

Many expect the growth to continue for a while. “Our expectations are that this growth will continue into the latter part of 2022,” said LeeAnn Donaton, president/CEO of Loop-Loc, based in Hauppauge, N.Y.

But Dick Rayner, president of the company that bears his name, is taking more of a wait-and-see stance. He believes the direction of the pandemic response will dictate sales to come.

“If the schools and states open up, I expect to see a drop in volume of covers,” he says. “If they stay closed, the high volume will continue.”

However, the numbers are not dictated exclusively by the pandemic, says LaMont Drechsel, vice president and general manager of Fluidra Specialty Products, which sells the Cover-Pools brand from its U.S. headquarters in Carlsbad, Calif.

“In fact, we think covers as a percent of pools built is increasing,” he says. “The advantages of auto covers when it comes to energy, water and chemical conservation is driving cover popularity. The secret is out.”

Donaton credits other factors for the continued growth this year: “I believe this has continued into 2021 due to the record low interest rates, which are driving home equity loans and re-mortgages, which in turn has motivated and influenced growth in new pool construction and renovations,” she says.

What’s selling

Among safety covers, the mesh variety remain the most popular, manufacturers say.

“We sell almost twice as many mesh as solid covers,” says Thomas Kennedy, Tara’s marketing director. “Those percentages stay pretty much the same each year. Probably because mesh is less expensive than solid. It is also lighter which makes it easier to install, remove and store. It also allows water to drain from the surface.”

But manufacturers also attribute this, in part, to their appearance. “Safety mesh covers are by far the most popular, in colors to match the stone decking that is being ordered,” Rayner says.

Tara, on the other hand, is selling the majority of its covers in blue.

On the automatic cover side, custom products continue their upward trajectory. Not only is this due to the flexibility they allow, Shebek says, but because of a new market adjustment.

“Custom concrete/gunite pools with pool covers have grown significantly, in part due to the emergence of expert automatic cover installation companies,” he says.

Designers and builders are seeking creative solutions for fitting automatic covers to more complex shapes. “We have seen many designers and builders planning two auto covers on one pool in order to safely and economically cover their unique designs,” Shebek says.

The use of these products on vanishing-edge pools continues to increase, as do installers who use them to cover both pools and spas, he adds.

Continuing trends

Cover manufacturers report that the pandemic, in addition to presenting the unexpected increase in demand, has heightened some pre-existing trends.

For instance, some observe that online sales of covers has increased.

“With many items in short supply and the delays that many manufacturers are experiencing because of demand, there are a lot of homeowners and dealers who are turning to internet options,” says Tara’s Kennedy.

“That was already a growing trend but it has accelerated since the pandemic. That means there are a lot of DIY homeowners, too, because most installers aren’t going to install a safety cover someone bought on the internet.”

Additionally, manufacturers say they’re feeling more motivated than ever to develop products that are easier and quicker to install, and that require fewer people. While ease and efficiency are always in demand, they say, they hope such products will help builders and installers complete more installations in less time, in order to manage the historic backlogs.