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The State of the Pool Industry

How pool pros view the profession and industry in today’s world

The pool industry is chugging along — builders are still Building Pools from last year, servicers are busier than ever and some manufacturers are expanding to meet demand.

After the explosion of pool builds and sales in the early pandemic days, pool pros are taking a deep breath as daily operations level out and the industry stabilizes.  

But what’s next? We asked experts to share what’s new and upcoming for the pool industry. 

state of the industry

Talking money  

“I think the biggest thing right now is we are finally finding stability again after last year,” says Hal Denbar, CEO of Tampa-based National Pool Partners.  

On the service side, Denbar says last year offered a learning opportunity — especially for companies that underpriced their work. The topic of appropriate pay in the industry is something he’s seeing more of among pool pros in social media circles.  

The discussion is long overdue, he says.  

Our biggest enemy in our industry has been ourselves. When we don’t present ourselves professionally and price accordingly, we lower ourselves in the eyes of the consumer.”

Hal Denbar, National Pool Partners

“Inflation is waking people up to pricing as they offer a professional service, and I’m hoping that it does continue,” he says. “Our biggest enemy in our industry has been ourselves. When we don’t present ourselves professionally and price accordingly, we lower ourselves in the eyes of the consumer.” 

During the pandemic, his company released an inflation impact calculator to help pool pros determine cost increases.

state of the industry

Growth opportunities and tough stock market showings

The pool industry has also had a chance to recalibrate, reinvent and expand. Whether that’s increasing revenue or seeking new opportunities, in some industry sectors growth has hit an all-time high.

“Fiberglass pool builders are still riding the COVID wave,” says Annie Brock, director of business development at Thursday Pools, an Indiana-based fiberglass pool manufacturer. “Most dealers feel pretty good having sold a majority of this year’s pool installations last year.” 

Like many other manufacturers, that extra revenue equals expansion opportunities. 

For Thursday Pools, it meant finishing expansions of an additional 50,000-square-foot, climate-controlled, indoor space for its growing manufacturing operation. The company also expanded its outdoor pool loading area for faster pool shipping across the U.S. and Canada. 

However, not all manufacturers are reporting success and sunny outlooks as many have been hit hard in the stock market, forcing layoffs or other cutbacks. Shares have fallen for many companies in the second quarter, with Poolcorp falling 4.9%, Latham dropping 7%, Hayward falling 7.9% and Leslie’s hitting an all-time low with a 30% drop.  

Revenue is down from 2022, as well. In the second quarter of 2023, Poolcorp reported a 9.7% decrease in revenue. Other manufacturers reported a significant decline, as well — up to 28% in some cases. 

Mike Egeck, CEO of Leslie’s, sums up many of the challenges manufacturers have faced in 2023, calling this year a highly unusual season for the industry. “Unfavorable weather, increased consumer price sensitivity and pool owners with an elevated level of chemicals left over from last year contributed to double-digit traffic declines and a 9% sales decline in the quarter,” he says in an earnings call. “In addition, we absorbed elevated distribution costs and increased product costs, which impacted our margins for the quarter.”

The tide may be turning, however; in early August, Poolcorp saw a steady rise in its stock, supported by strong financial indicators and positive ratings.

StateOfTheIndustry Safety

Safety first  

The last few years have also presented an opportunity for safety protocols to take the lead, which includes automatic pool covers, pool alarms and everything in between.  

Automatic Pool Covers, Inc., found partnering with pool pros across the nation through its installation arm Cover Care LLC made it easier to expand to about 45 markets.  

“The acceptance of automatic covers is at an all-time high,” says Michael Shebek, CEO of Automatic Pool Covers, Inc. “Pool owners are very interested in safety. It’s the ease of a consumer closing their pool up at night knowing there’s no access to the water and that they’re going to save on heating costs, especially in the northern markets.”  

For consumers without automatic covers, pool alarms are an affordable safety option. The pool alarm industry alone is expected to grow 7.7% between 2023-31, according to market research firm Reed Intelligence. 

Entrapment prevention has been a focus of the pool industry for many years, but with the recent introduction of the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Reauthorization Act, which requires all U.S. public pools to continue to install safe drain covers, the conversation is being renewed. The Pool & Hot Tub Alliance is pleased with the reintroduction of the act because it helps prevent drownings, PHTA CEO Sabeena Hickman says.

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StateOfTheIndustry Techie

Getting techie  

Smartphone technology is also making it easier for homeowners, builders and servicers to take care of pools.  

“The tech is definitely increasing at a rapid rate, especially from a service perspective,” says Denbar, who notes the industry’s service side has been slow to grow in that area. 

One example is CamerEye, an artificial intelligence smart pool system that covers the entire pool lifecycle. The in-app dashboard provides real-time data on pool health that includes details on cleanliness, usage tracking, care alerts and a comprehensive pool health score.  

Another tool is CCEI USA’s Phileo VP automated controller. It provides energy-efficient chemical regulation by activating the motor during dosing, and the controller adjusts chemicals as needed by automatically testing and monitoring pH levels in pools.  

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New faces, new ideas  

Aside from new technology, the demand for innovations and manpower during the pandemic pool boom brought with it new faces and voices from outside the industry.  

“One thing I’ve been so impressed with at the last few trade shows is the industry seems to be attracting people with different backgrounds,” Denbar says. “There’s a lot of raw brain power coming into the industry right now.”

Along with new faces, the industry is also seeing a flurry of new types of content on social media and podcasts. 

“The added media around the industry has been fun to watch,” Denbar says. “The podcast side of the industry and seeing how many people are engaging in that — I hope that continues.” 

StateOfTheIndustry BuildersHit

Florida builders hit hard   

Not all reports are cheery, though. Thanks to inflation, pool build leads have leveled off.  

Jon Krawczyk, owner of Superior Pools of Southwest Florida, can attest to that trend.  

“Nothing is going to be like 2021,” he says. “Last year, it kind of slowed down, and now, it’s really slowed down. A lot of the leads are on new construction houses, but it’s taking builders longer to build the house. The leads are there, but it’s not a buyer’s market.” 

The Florida pool industry in particular has had difficulties bouncing back. Add in the dilemma of finding workers and supplies — Hurricane Ian devastated southwest Florida in late 2022 — and builders like Krawczyk are stuck with a big headache. 

Insurance claims have also been a problem for Floridians and pool builders due to inflation. Many pool owners don’t have appropriate pool coverage through homeowner’s insurance, Krawczyk says. But with 5,000 pool builds under his belt since the founding of his company, Krawczyk knows to keep a positive attitude.  

“I’ve been worried about another crash coming with housing being high and [some] banks failing,” he says. “But if I can keep my head down and employees working, that’s my main goal.”  

Shebek of Automatic Pool Covers says even slower periods can be a chance for growth. 

“Consider putting the pedal down more than trying to retract,” he says of a recession period. “You have to cut your costs, of course, but be diligent where you can grow and where you can find opportunities.” 

Shebek is excited about the upcoming growth he knows is around the corner based on previous experience and research reports.  

If people in the industry knew that for the next 12 years or longer the industry was going to be in a growth mode, what would they do differently?”

Michael Shebek, Automatic Pool Covers, Inc

“Over the last 40 to 50 years, there has not been in decline in new pool construction for more than four years; every time new construction has dropped, it came back up sooner or later,” he says.  

Luckily for builders like Krawczyk, research supports a positive outlook. Between 2021-26, the pool industry is expected to see $4.60 billion in growth, according to a 2022 Technavio report. 

“It’s an exciting industry to be in,” Shebek says. “Every decline has been followed by a very extended period of growth. If people in the industry knew that for the next 12 years or longer the industry was going to be in a growth mode, what would they do differently?”

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