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With limited options for fun, Americans flood pool-builders with new demand

By
Don Jacobson
A section of beach is closed at Rye Playland Beach in New York on May 24 due to restrictions associated with the coronavirus pandemic. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
A section of beach is closed at Rye Playland Beach in New York on May 24 due to restrictions associated with the coronavirus pandemic. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

June 25 (UPI) -- While the coronavirus pandemic has depressed a number of industries over the last three months, others are finding a new flood of momentum -- including, since the arrival of warmer weather, new demand for private swimming pools.

Like the bicycling industry this year, businesses that build pools have seen a recent renaissance -- mainly due to American families spending more time at home.

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Demand for both below- and above-ground models, pool equipment and services began to grow in April after widespread restrictions related to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Emergency measures forced public swimming pools to close, along with many other recreational businesses, leaving Americans with limited options.

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Industry officials say the hiatus has been a boon for companies that install and maintain backyard pools, which have been allowed to continue operating as essential providers. And bored Americans by the thousands responded by flooding builders with calls.

"Because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stated there's no evidence that COVID-19 can be spread to humans through the use of pools and hot tubs, there's a sense of security," Sabeena Hickman, president and CEO of the Pool & Hot Tub Alliance, told UPI. "[That's] as long as the pool or hot tub is properly maintained and disinfected."

HIckman said the demand has been aided during the pandemic by "health and well-being benefits" of pools and hot tubs.

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Pool Corp., a Louisiana-based company that calls itself the world's largest distributor of supplies, was one of the first to note the surge. After sales sagged in the first few weeks of the health crisis, it said, demand soared.

CEO Peter Arvan said last month that sales of supplies like chemicals, filters and pumps were "trending favorably" compared with early 2019 and was benefiting from "strong demand."

"Increased demand for these products demonstrates positive pool ownership trends [post-COVID-19]," he said.

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More evidence of growing demand emerged in a survey of the top 50 U.S. builders by Pool and Spa News, which found 86 percent of builders have reported an increase in potential sales this year over last. More than 40 percent said they expect an uptick in pool building.

Nationwide, pool dealers have been swamped with new business, and pools have sold out at retailers like Home Depot and Lowe's. Metro Pools in Kinnelon, N.J., said it fielded 1,000 pricing requests this spring -- compared to an average of 30 pools it builds over an entire season.

A recent survey showed that 40 percent of Pool & Hot Tub Alliance builders said April sales were up 10 percent or more over 2019. Nearly half projected an increase of at least 10 percent in summer revenue, and more than half expected more total sales revenue for 2020 -- particularly for above-ground pools.

"Many families, especially those with smaller back yards and shorter summers, are opting for an above-ground pool so that they can enjoy many of the benefits ... on a smaller budget," Hickman noted.

Whether the demand spike will shape the long-term fortunes of the industry -- especially once the health crisis ends and other entertainment options return -- is a question that cannot be answered.

"While we don't have a crystal ball, there's something to be said about the security of the 'staycation.'" Hickman said. "Google retail reports show significant upticks in searches for swimming pools, pool equipment and pool toys.

"While the demographics haven't changed, the behavior has shifted. But for how long is hard to predict."

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Visitors wear face masks as they tour the Whitney Museum of American Art as it reopens on September 3. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

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