Despite the economic downturn, job uncertainty and stock market losses, 2002 has turned out to be a strong year for hot tub/spa sales, according to some industry manufacturers.
"Spa sales are up," said Jeff Kurth, past chairman of the National Spa & Pool Institute (NSPI) and CEO of Marquis Spas, an Independence, OR, U.S.-based spa manufacturer. "Greater focus on home and family this past year together with low interest rate refinancing have contributed to a significant surge in sales." Many manufacturers are enjoying the best sales increases ever -- some as much as 60 percent, the company maintains.
"People are looking for things that create a sense of family togetherness," Mr. Kurth said. "Backyard spas are a product that not only bring stress relief and relaxation, but a place where the family can gather to enjoy quality time together."
Traditionally, spa sales parallel the economic environment, he explained. "When the economy is down, as it was 10 years ago, spa sales are down," said Mr. Kurth. In 2001, as the downturn took hold, sales began to slide. Then came September 11. But instead of driving sales down further, spa sales rebounded.
"Our company fell short of sales projections in the three quarters leading up to Sept. 11," Mr. Kurth said. "But in October, November and December 2001 we exceeded forecasts." That upward trend has continued through 2002.
Don Adams, owner of Clearwater Spas in Newark, DE said 2002 has been a banner year for his company as well. "This is probably the best year we've had in our 18 years of operation," said Mr. Adams, who sells spas and gazebos to customers in Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and New Jersey. "Instead of taking the family on vacation in Hawaii, people are putting their money into their own backyards."
Larry Berczyk, owner of Minneapolis, MN-based Valley Pools and Spas, agreed. "Our sales are up significantly this year, maybe 25 to 30 percent over last year. People are spending their money at home. There's a nesting thing taking place." Mr. Berczyk, whose company operates three locations in Minnesota and one in Wisconsin, said families make up 80-90 percent of his sales.
James McClure, chief operating officer of Dimension One Spas Inc. in Vista, CA., and chairman of the NSPI Hot Tub Council, said he senses an urgency in the marketplace.
"There seems to be more of an 'I deserve it, so I'll do it now' mentality of purchasing rather than the 'I really want a hot tub, and I'm going to get one someday' attitude of the past," he explained.
Mr. Kurth maintains the industry has also benefited from the change in attitude toward spas. "Ten years ago, people associated spas with swinging singles and the party scene. Today, we're seeing demand from families and empty nesters who realize the wellness benefits -- physical and mental -- of relaxing in a spa," he said.
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