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Dealer Finds New Life in On-Ground Pools

Pool type helped Owego, N.Y., Johnson Pools stay afloat

My parents founded Johnson Pools in 1977. We started out as a custom concrete, block wall, vinyl-liner pool builder and slowly grew. Back in the ’80s, people wanted freeform pools, so we moved away from concrete walls and start doing steel walls.

In the late ’90s to the 2000s, people went into debt up to their eyeballs and financed until they couldn’t breathe. Everybody wanted bigger and better. We sold a lot of high-end pools with automation, controllers and pool/spa combinations, and we stayed on the high end of pool construction. But in the last three years, that market has dried up. There are still people spending big bucks, but they’re few and far between. Instead of doing 20 pools a year that cost $70,000 to $80,000 each, we’re down to 10 or so. To keep your employees going, what do you offer next?

Today’s customer is more cost conscious and doesn’t want debt. They’re asking, “What can I afford out of pocket, going minimally in debt and still having a quality product that’s going to last until my kids are in college?” People didn’t want the tin can, cheap above-ground pool; that market was dead too — but they didn’t want to spend $30,000 to $50,000 on an in-ground pool, either. They sough a happy medium.

That’s where this niche is falling. We’ve been selling the Ultimate Pool since Fox Pools came out with it four or five years ago. Last year, we did about 18 of them. They fit a workable price range for people who want quality, and you can do a lot with it.

If you look at the steel wall of the standard above-ground pool, they’re very thin and not made to be backfilled as it voids the warranty. This pool is made of the same steel and powder-coating system as Fox’s in-ground pools. It’s a sturdy, structurally sound wall bolted together in three-foot panels. A gusset keeps it level and square, and once you pour your concrete footer around that, it can’t go anywhere.

With this pool’s various sizes, there’s something for anybody’s budget. And if money were no object, the 17-by-32-footer with all the bells and whistles runs $32,000. A basic unit, by comparison, is $8,500 out the door. There are then options to add everything from steps or lights to a heater.

Even the cheapest in-ground pool costs more than Fox’s most expensive on-ground pool. You get an in-ground–quality pool at a high-end above-ground price.

In our industry today, you have to offer multiple things to stay afloat, and Fox’s Ultimate Pool is a good-value, quality product.

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