Industry retailers are flush with opportunity.

Despite the country’s worst recession since World War II, sellers of equipment, replacement parts and other accessories can take advantage of the recovery potential (close to $5 billion for dealers over the next several years) presented by an existing base of 9 million residential pools, according to PoolCorp CEO Manuel Perez de la Mesa.

“That puts us in a very fortuitous position,” he told more than 700 attendees during a keynote address that opened the distributor’s 2nd Annual Retail Summit, held Jan. 11-12 at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Dallas.

“The question is: Do we wait for that to happen, or do we go out and get our share vs. other discretionary purchases?” he added. “When we are growing at the same rate as everyone else, we have to find ways to be better. We have to constantly … reach beyond our industry to see how they are selling more and how they are bringing more customers to their stores.”

In addition to presentations by PoolCorp’s key executives, the two-day gathering provided a forum for commerce, with 85 manufacturers displaying products to more than 350 retailers.

An educational program included seminars that covered topics from merchandising techniques to social media strategies to increasing profitability through big-ticket item sales. Hands-on product training also was offered by technical experts from Hayward Pool Products, Pentair Water Pool and Spa, and Zodiac Pool Systems.

Retailers took time to network and share strategies, as well as challenges and experiences that often were strikingly similar despite geographical differences. In fact, the general mood was decidedly upbeat, as the event gave many a chance to re-examine their businesses and identify specific objectives moving forward.

“I found the course on merchandising particularly interesting because it presented some of today’s technology and illustrated how consumers are using it,” said Amy Rullo, pool division manager at Moyer Indoor/Outdoor in Warrington, Pa.

“That was important for me because at times you tend to miss that layer,” she added. “I wanted to learn how the customer shops and what’s appealing to them when they walk into the store. Overall, it really helped put into perspective what I can expect from my consumers.”

PoolCorp is based in Covington, La., and is publicly traded under the symbol POOL.