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Association of Pool & Spa Professionals
The Pool & Spa Show Codes & Regs Buyers & Owners

2017 Pool & Spa Industry Survey

View Financial Insights | Employment Trends | Marketing Strategies | A Look Ahead | Words of Wisdom
Download the Survey Report PDF

Launched at the 2017 Pool & Spa Show in Atlantic City in January, The Pool & Spa Industry Survey was distributed to industry professionals throughout the greater northeast in early 2017. Participation was limited to business owners and executive staff and respondents were asked to anonymously provide detailed information how their business performed in 2016 and what they expected their business to be like during the 2017 season.  The survey was distributed to over 2000 top executives and the participation rate was 11%.

Key takeaways this year were - 

  • The majority of companies seem to be challenged by finding and retaining quality employees.
  • Business continues to improve and there is a positive outlook for 2017.
  • Referrals are critical to growing business.  Referrals or simply “word of mouth” plays a large role in getting new clients as well as new employees.

View the Survey Highlight Video

FINANCIAL INSIGHTS

Participants were asked to estimate their company’s annual revenue.   The largest percent of participants (31%) had revenue between $1 million and $5 million. The second largest revenue range (26%) was between $500,000 and $1 million.

What is your company’s annual revenue?

 

 

The positive mood felt by Survey respondents last year continued with this year’s survey with 70% (65% in 2016 Survey) of  people reporting their company performed better in 2016 than in 2015 and only 4% (5% in the 2016 Survey) felt that their company did worse in 2016 compared to 2016.

How did you company perform in 2016 as compared to 2015 (based on percentage of net profit)

 

When asked specifically about their net profits for 2017, 95% of participants saw their net profits rise in 2016 (up from 92% last year’s survey) and only 5% saw a decline.

Percentage of Net Profits Up or Down in 2016

                 

What do you attribute your profit growth to?

 

When considering why their net profits improved in 2016, marketing was seen as the biggest contributor to profit growth with 28% while the overall improvement in the economy came in right behind at 27%.   Almost a third of survey respondents attributed their profit growth to “other” factors with many mentioning referrals from customers, improved business management and even simply the warmer weather.

Those who responded that their profits were down attributed it to the economy and competition including unlicensed/uninsured, low priced competitors.

To learn more about how companies were positioning themselves for a more successful season, we asked what they invested in to improve their productivity.


EMPLOYMENT TRENDS

In 2016, 33% of companies who took the survey invested in new hires to improve their business’s productivity. Participants of the survey were also asked about their company’s employment levels last season (2016).   Almost two-thirds of participating companies had 10 employees or less (63%) with 88% having 20 employees or less during the 2016 season.

Number of Employees in 2016

 

When asked approximately how many of their employees were seasonal, 19% of companies classified all of their employees as seasonal (down from 25% last year) while another 19% considered none of their employees as seasonal.   Almost three-quarters of the companies considered 50% or more of their workforce seasonal.

What percentage of your employees is seasonal? (approximately)

 

What percentage of your employees is full-time (approximately)

 

For the first time, we also asked what percentage of employees was considered full-time.  While 14 percent of companies considered none of their employees full-time, more than a quarter considered all of their employees full-time.

New to this year’s survey, we dug deeper on employment by asking how companies attract the best season talent to work for them. We discovered that many of the survey participants were wondering the same thing.  Many responded with “wish I knew,” “still working on this” and “not sure.”  Out of those who seemed to be successful in finding quality seasonal employees, many relied on word of mouth and especially on referrals from current employees.

What benefits do you currently provide to your employees? (check all that apply)

 
When asked about which benefits they provide to employees, respondents were allowed to select all that applied.   In this year’s survey, incentives/bonuses were most popular with 49% of companies offering this and in second place was employer-paid training at 45% of companies offering this benefit.  

 Beyond which benefits they offer, we asked survey participants to consider which benefits they thought motivated their employees the most.  The overwhelming response was bonuses or other financial incentives.  More than 45% of individuals who responded thought money was the key motivator for their employees.   Other key benefits listed were flexible hours, paid time off and health care benefits.

Participants were also asked which investments had the biggest positive impact and while the answers were varied, investments in software programs seemed to have the strongest impact.   Types of software programs mentioned included – Customer relationship management programs, GPS Tracking, Paperless Billing, Online/live scheduling and point of sale software.  Another investment which high returns according to survey participants was employee training. 

What did you invest in to improve your company’s productivity in 2016?
(check all that apply)

 


MARKETING STRATEGIES

When asked which marketing strategies they invested their time and money in to promoting their business, the responses showed that most companies use a variety of marketing tactics to achieve their marketing goals.  In comparing this year’s survey, we saw that social media platforms continue to be key part of pool and spa companies marketing mix and digital marketing tactics like SEO, e-marketing and online advertising are no longer new strategies but important parts of company’s marketing plans.  Compare the 2017 Survey response to 2016.

What marketing strategies do you use to promote your business?(check all that apply)

2017

 

2016

 

We also asked participants to share what they considered to be their most effective marketing strategy and share how it has impacted their business.  Many of the responses focused on digital and online marketing tactics including social media, email campaigns, SEO and online ads. 

  • I believe online ads helped to keep our business name in people's minds. The more they see a name, the more comfortable they will become with the name and doing business with us.
  • Social Media. It is a constant ever changing media which gives us and customers immediate info at our disposal.
  • Search engine optimization. It provides the most exposure and branding.

Customer referrals based on customer satisfaction were also high on the list.

  • Customer referrals.  Nothing speaks louder than a happy customer.
  • The most effective marketing strategy is striving to do a great job and customer service. Turns into word-of-mouth marketing through my clientele base.
  • Quality workmanship on the job leads to great word of mouth referrals.
  • My most effective marketing strategy from a serve point of view is to provide the best service I can and let word of mouth spread the word. It has worked to this date for my company.

Companies were then asked to consider their marketing tactics based on dollars spent, time invested and effectiveness.

MONEY SPENT

              

TIME INVESTED

 

EFFECTIVENESS

 


Participants were also asked to share what they considered to be the primary function of their business website. While the majority viewed their website as either a lead generator (29%) or a tool to raise brand awareness (25%), a significant percentage (18%) did not have a website at all.  This was an increase from last year when 15% reported not having a website.

 

What is the main purpose of your website?


 

 

This year, we asked participants to share what they did to improve traffic to their website over the last year (2016).  The website update that was mentioned most was making their website mobile friendly with a responsive website design.  Survey participants recognized that more people access the internet now by mobile device than by a desktop.  To make sure the user experience on the website is the best possible, companies must invest in responsive designs that make their website content accessible on mobile platforms. 

With 53% of those taking the survey using social media as a marketing tactic, it was interesting to learn that for the second year in a row Facebook is the most popular social media site (68% using).   All of the other social sites and online communities had usage of 27% or lower.  Customer referral websites including Angie’s List and Houzz had strong participation levels though Houzz saw a significant dip from last year (2017: 12% | 2016 25%).  It’s also interesting to note that 23% of survey participants said they did not use any social media sites during the 2016 season.

Which social media sites or online communities do your business

have a presence on? (check all that apply)

 

New to this year’s survey, we asked what types of content companies posted to social networks and how frequently they posted.  Companies that found a way to combine information about their products and services with fun facts or ways to learn more behind the scene details seems to get a greater response from followers.

  • I add a pool pic of the day.  Normally the pool we are building in stages.  We get many comments on our builds
  • Pools we just built.  We put out different did you knows about our industry and its history, which we have gotten great feedback on interesting it is.  We also are currently putting fun facts about our employees and business accomplishments.
  • NO SALES!!!  All brand awareness and social stuff. Pictures and sales.
  • Useful information about maintaining your swimming pool. 

Participants varied on how frequently they posted with answers ranging from daily, weekly and monthly with no steady answer across the board.

When asked whether they felt social media impacted different aspects of their business, the majority felt that it had a positive influence on their sales, lead generation and customer loyalty while a significant percentage had a difficult time determining the medium’s impact.


Has your social media presence impacted your company's 

 

Yes

No

Not Sure

N/A

Sales

48%

12%

22%

18%

Lead Generation

52%

8%

22%

18%

Customer Loyalty

38%

10%

32%

20%


A LOOK AHEAD

The Survey concluded by asking participants how they felt the 2017 season would treat the industry.  It was clear that positive outlook from 2016 was expected to carry over into 2017.

Starting with employment levels, over 50% felt their employee levels would increase in 2017 with 7% of them feeling that they would increase substantially (up from 3% in 2016).  A total of 99% of respondents felt that employment levels would increase or stay the same in 2017.

Do you expect your company's employment levels in 2017 to*
*Decrease somewhat = 0%

 

While there was a generally optimistic view of business in 2017, respondents were realistic when it came to how costs would change for various services and goods needed to operate their businesses with participants overwhelmingly feeling these costs would rise or at least remaining consistent for 2017.

 

Increase

Stay the same

Decrease

N/A

Business Insurance

63%

34%

1%

1%

Fees & Taxes

67%

31%

1%

1%

Healthcare Costs

62%

17%

1%

19%

Marketing/PR

43%

38%

0%

18%

Media Advertising

36%

42%

1%

21%

Training and Education

45%

50%

0%

5%

Payroll

72%

21%

3%

4%

Materials

80%

16%

2%

2%



When asked specifically how they felt their company would perform in 2017, the answer was resoundingly positive with 85% feeling their sales will increase and 80% thought profits would increase this year (up from 81% and 78% last year).

 

 

Increase

Stay the Same

Decrease

Sales

85%

13%

1%

Profits

80%

17%

3%

Purchases

74%

22%

4%

When looking deeper into the responses, we saw that a large percentage of participants were confident that their sales, profits and purchases would increase significantly in 2017.

 

 

Will Increase
Substantially

Sales

18%

Profits

17%

Purchases

16%


WORDS OF WISDOM

We ended this year’s survey with three open-ended questions that allowed them to share their thoughts looking ahead and a chance to look back at the best lesson they learned in their years working in the pool and spa industry.

What is the biggest challenge you will face in 2017? There were a few central themes in the responses to this question – finding & keeping good employees, low cost & low quality competitors and the economy.

  • Being a seasonal company hiring and maintaining employees/manager.
  • Getting better people and keeping them without breaking the bank.
  • Competing with low balling companies who drive prices down. If you run a proper company you cannot service at the prices these guys are putting out there. They are ruining the business for all
  • As usual internet competition and box stores
  • Bringing in the right jobs. Jobs that will be profitable and not drain all our resources. We vet customers now too. If we see they will not fit with our style we avoid taking the job

What is the biggest opportunity you have in 2017?  The general optimism felt throughout the survey continued in this question.  Many felt the uncertainty created by the 2016 election season would finally subside and open up new opportunities for business growth.

  • I believe that 2017 will bring a new and existing clientele base that will be willing to spend more money now that the election is over. There are good indication that the economy will improve
  • It not being an election year perhaps consumers will feel more secure in making big purchases.
  • Marketing, New perspective on the industry from a new generation.
  • I have more trained staff this year than I have had in a long time.
  • The sky is the limit for everything in 2017

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned during your years in the pool and spa business?  While responses varied they nearly all boiled down to honesty, integrity and good customer service.

  • Plan all winter for the spring. Go to the office for a few hours a day to keep in the rhythm of working.
  • Reputation goes a long way. Have loyalty to customers.
  • Creating a niche and setting my business apart from others is a huge advantage. Keeping the process simple. Focus on work that is profitable. Treating employees and customers with respect
  • Do the right thing every time with no exceptions
  • Call everyone back.
  • Treat customers well, provide better than expected service from caring, knowledgeable technicians and your customers will keep coming back.
  • customers are getting worse, harder to deal with and don't want to pay their bills
  • Treat customers well, provide better than expected service from caring, knowledgeable technicians and your customers will keep coming back.
  • Treat every pool as you would your own
  • The market is always changing with new competition
  • Customer service is king, there will always be issues, it's how you respond!
Copyright 2017 by NESPA
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