Snapshot of booming wet leisure market

A snapshot of the booming wet leisure industry was provided by hot tub and swim spa distribution specialists who were aiming to extend their presence in the British market during the Hot Tub Living Expo.

hot-tub-living-expo-logo-picturePoor weather conditions have previously blighted the former UK Pool & Spa Expo during the four previous events at the Birmingham NEC, but on this occasion an earlier slot in the calendar as part of a two-day October schedule, following a Sunday evening VIP event, ensured mild conditions for visitors making their way to the West Midlands venue for the revamped and newly named hot tub showcase.

Those that did attend found that the fifth edition by New Events Ltd had only attracted a handful of leading USA and European hot tub and swim spa brands. In the past there has been a good turnout by major players in the British hot tub market but this time round only a core band of loyalists to the exhibition had signed up to showcase their product lines.

This was compounded by the fact that multiple brands were being promoted on single stands. In addition Hydropool had not followed up its previous appearance last year with another successive stand presence, despite being on the pre-publicity exhibitor lists, as well as being allocated a stand location in the Show Guide, and appearing during the previous week as part of its high-profile commitment to Grand Designs within the NEC complex.

British hot tub market specialist David Wright, known in the industry as ‘Hot Tub Dave’, was officially launched as the new Territory Development Manager UK & Ireland for both Hydropool and its associated Lay-Z-Boy Spas brand at last year’s UK Pool & Spa Expo. He explained that the decision had been taken not to exhibit this time due to the development of new products that could be promoted at a future event.

“We are currently working on new developments and so we decided not to have a presence in a display area this year,” reported Dave. “We’ll have more new products next year.”

Leading up to the event there had been speculation that further changes were going to be made for 2017 by organisers New Events Ltd. This was officially confirmed on the first day of the exhibition when it was revealed that plans were being drawn up to align the exhibition with Leisure Industry Week that is expecting to attracted over 150 exhibitors to the event at the NEC next year.

“We are currently making plans to integrate the Hot Tub Living Expo into Leisure Industry Week that is taking place once again in September next year,” reported New Events Director Rob Saunders.

Loyal exhibitors

Thankfully for the 2016 Hot Tub Living Expo edition, a number of leading distributors had honoured their commitment to the exhibition and were keen to promote their increased bumper hot tub and swim spa sales successes in the market this year in a reduced section of Hall 11. Among the loyal exhibitors who had signed up to their fifth consecutive appearance were Aqua Warehouse Group, and Wellis, who had large stands among the small turnout from additional outdoor product companies.

Hot tub and swim spa specialist Richard Hart and leading members of his Aqua Warehouse Group crew have been an ever-present in the exhibition’s run in various locations of the NEC’s exhibition complex. Loyality to the event and continuing success in the wet leisure market has reaped rich rewards by gaining annual sales increases and the responsibility for the L.A Spas dealer network in the UK after USA manufacturer MAAX Spas acquired the brand before the third edition of the UK Pool & Spa Expo.

On this occasion Richard and his exhibition team were busy promoting the new Vita Spa VL4 as part of the launch promotion for the swim spa model and its xStream Force Jet Propulsion System and anti-turbulence technology.

He admitted that his pedigree reputation in the British market and his successful distribution of the Vita Spa range of hot tubs and swim spas that are also produced by MAAX Spas had been the significant factor in Aqua Warehouse Group being granted exclusive UK distribution for L.A Spas hot tubs and swim spas that had achieve strong sales this year.

“We naturally would not have been given the L.A Spas distribution agreement if we had been performing poorly in the market with the Vita Spa network,” said Richard.

“Our success with Vita Spa over many years has paid off and we have very strong dealer loyalty due to our commitment to them. We have now repaid the faith that MAAX Spas has shown in us by helping L.A Spas dealers to increase their sales this year.”

Richard reported that his Aqua Spa Supplies division; which had also booked in November appearances at the Holiday Park & Resort Innovation exhibition at the NEC, and exhibitor space at Piscine Global in Lyon ahead of a 2017 appearance at SPATEX at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry; is servicing increased orders for Covana covers thanks to dealers promoting the advanced security systems in their showrooms.

“We’ve seen a large increase in the demand for Covana systems from our growing customer base,” said Richard.

“So to ensure greater customer satisfaction we’ve ensured that the Covana covers now have their own dedicated ordering process like the systems we’ve already implemented for the hot tubs and swim spas from L.A Spa and Vita Spas.”

Wellis has been another of the major success stories since the original UK Pool & Spa Expo was launched in 2013 and a loyal run of consecutive appearances, with ever-growing exhibition stand space, have ensured considerable growth in the British market for the Hungary-based hot tub and swim spa manufacturer.

Exposure at the NEC and additional major UK and European exhibitions has paid off in recent years. As a result, leading dealerships, including multi-award-winning Jacuzzi specialist retailer Oyster Pools & Leisure have joined the European manufacturer’s British network of showroom outlets; which has helped Wellis distributor and Superior Spas Managing Director Rob Carlin to capitalise on booming wet leisure consumer demand and ensure record-breaking sales growth this year.

Rob has gained the distribution deal at a time of major expansion to new factory facilities by Wellis and was aiming to capitalise even further with his large display presence during the exhibition that included an imposing new Rio Grande swim spa that has a dedicated hot tub seating area, which was placed on its side for maximum exposure to visitors.

“We’ve got the largest display area and it is helping us promote the fact that we’re doing so well in the market,” said Rob.

“Like the industry as a whole, all of our dealers have been performing well and have recorded good sales this year. I can’t believe how well it’s gone so far with the support from Wellis and their new factory which is producing three new hot tub models, including a five-lounger seat model, for 2017.

“It’s been crazy this year and our sales have more than doubled compared with our 2015 figures.”

Exclusive UK and European Distributor of the Alps Spas and Viking Spas brands Anthony Schneikert of Spa Solutions was another loyal exhibitor making his fifth appearance at the NEC venue and had secured a prime spot for his display stand just inside the entrance of Hall 11.

Anthony has used the previous four events to increase awareness of the USA brands and boost his British dealer network, while catering for his booming European network of hot tub retailers. He was highlighting strong sales and improved figures compared to 2015, ahead of heading to France for a successive appearance as an exhibitor at Piscine Global.

“We’ve had another great year,” said Anthony, “Sales have increased and I think that reflects what’s been happening in the market as a whole.”

Like his fellow USA brand distributing exhibitors and other counterparts in the UK, Anthony reported that the unfavourable consequences of BREXIT and the hit to the currency value meant that price increases were inevitable.

“Dealers have got to understand that prices are naturally going to be put up,” said Anthony. “But some have still not come to grips with the consequences of the BREXIT vote.”

Not even a devastating fire could keep Dutch hot tub and swim spa specialist Passion Spas from making a successive appearance at the exhibition. Despite the massive setback that cost the international spa distributor the loss of 65 per cent of its company, Passion Spas continued its commitment to the British market ahead of showcasing its Chinese-manufactured range at Piscine Global before a return to the West Midlands early next year for the 21st edition of SPATEX.

Along with his exhibition duties, Passion Spas founder Dolf Nieland is currently overseeing the major rebuilding project at the company’s headquarters facility in Holland that was engulfed in fire in July. He revealed that the strong support from loyal staff members had been a key element in the company being able to adapt to a temporary showroom structure while work is being completed in time for an Easter launch of the new headquarters building.

“The staff members at our headquarters have been very helpful and really supportive,” said Dolf.

“We’ve shown that our operation is more than just a building and we’ve been able to continue our services for our customers and dealers. So we’ve still had a great year in terms of sales compared to 2015.

“Our aim now is to have the new building ready for April in time for Easter.”

On a smaller stand Chinese-manufactured models were also being promoted by Platinum Spas General Manager Gareth Ward. He reported that the hot tubs were performing well and sales had increased after dealer ranks had swelled in recent years.

“Our Platinum Spas have got Balboa controls and are doing well at the moment as entry-level options for dealers in their showrooms,” said Gareth. “They’ve got some strong features and we are going to be making more refinements for 2017.

“We’ve now got 26 dealers to promote the various models. We can’t get them in quick enough and we’re confident that they’ll do well again next year.”

Wet leisure product specialist Chris Allcock was on the Innova Spa stand to promote two Quebec-manufactured models, which incorporate Balboa components and are being distributed in the UK by Poolspa Energy Ltd Managing Director Stuart Mulcahy from his warehousing facility in Poole.

“The round model is very robust and we are expecting it to do really well in the rental market,” reported Chris. “It provides another option for dealers who can promote low running costs to prospective customers.

“It is a polyurethane tub so if you scratch it you can have heat applied to the area to eliminate it. Another advantage for hot tub hire companies is the fact that if you wrap it correctly you can easily just roll it into place during delivery.”

Showroom tactics

Marketing tips and analysis strategies were being provided on both days of the exhibition by Doric Marketing chief Dorian Davies. While one of the key topics of conversation for trade visitors was increased prices from USA manufacturers and how to incorporate them in British showrooms wet leisure marketing guru Dorian highlighted ways in which retailers can help to limit any impact of a price hike to profitability.

Organisers of the Expo had invited industry experts to take part in the exhibition’s free seminar schedule and Dorian provided a comprehensive seminar on ‘How to put a marketing strategy together, and why have one’.

“Having a strategic marketing plan in place is important,” said Dorian. “It helps to focus on your goals and to identify target consumers as part of a dedicated strategy.

“Dealers can benefit from having a strategy by enhancing the awareness of their business and help to limit any impact of price increases following BREXIT by enhance engagement with current customers and promote hot tub and swim spa products and their related accessories to prospective consumers.”

Award-winning hot tub and swim spa dealer Jane Veysey of All Swim Ltd reported that she had already taken the initiative to notify current prospective customers about impending price rises to give them an opportunity to make a purchase.

“Some of the price rises could be as much as 20 per cent,” said Jane. “So I’ve alerted many of my prospective customers, who are currently making their final decisions on various purchases, about the impending increases.”

Jane also reported that she is excited to be helping to promote a revolutionary British-designed SwimDrive system that provides a major energy-saving capability from a variable speed drive that allows precise control of water flow.

“I’ve been looking for a new challenge and this involvement with SwimDrive is an exciting opportunity,” said Jane. ‘International Sales & Marketing’ role

“The inventor of SwimDrive, Nabeel Shirazee, is based in Cardiff and knew about my experience in the wet leisure market. That is why he came to me and briefed me on the product and then asked me to take it forward, in a new ‘International Sales & Marketing’ role, by assisting in the process of getting it in front of hot tub, swim spa and pool manufacturers.

“We’ve just finished completing the SwimDrive website, which will also help promote the potential of this technology online to the wider global market audience.”

Multiple duties

During his first appearance as an exhibitor thriving Marquis and Vita Spa dealer and 1 Stop Spas chief Chris Brady, was constantly busy as part of his SpaTech Training promotion. Along with his duties to highlight a fledgling distribution deal for DryCase products, Chris was also helping with the launch promotion of SteelCore Security Straps for hot tubs and swim spas as part of his new exclusive distribution deal for the UK.

Chris, who provided a 10 per cent discount on all orders placed for the SteelCore straps during the two days of the exhibition, is confident that there will be demand from British retailers.

“These SteelCore straps are extremely strong and are much more secure than traditional options that are currently available in the British market,” said Chris.

“They are a great product for retailers to supply to new and existing customers and the initial feedback we’ve already received has been very positive.”

Another exhibitor with multiple Hot Tub Living Expo duties was BAYROL product and water treatment specialist Jimmy Lamb from the Pollet Pool Group who has recently joined the BISHTA qualified tutor ransk to deliver the Water Hygiene Management syllabus. During both days of the exhibition he presented a forum on ‘Hot Tub Water Treatment and what to tell your customers’ to highlight tips and advice to give at the point of initial enquiry, as well as during commissioning and after sales.

While on duty on his stand, Jimmy also helped promote the Poseidon range of four user-friendly hot tubs that can be offered on a quick delivery basis. He was also highlighting the flourishing SpaTime water treatment range for hot tubs by BAYROL and other BAYROL products, including a new BAYROLab, water analysis system that has been developed for pool specialists.

“Our new BAYROLab system is only currently for pool specialists at the moment but we are working on an upgrade for spas that will also help to promote our SpaTime range,” said Jimmy.

“SpaTime is growing steadily and our collaboration with Elite Spas is currently paying dividends at the moment.”

O-Care Spa Water Care CEO Roel Fassbender is also discovering that water treatment is big business and the experienced Coast Spas and HotSpring dealer from Coast Spas Benelux in Holland was making a second appearance as an exhibitor at the NEC.

Last November Roel made his debut as a UK Pool & Spa Expo exhibitor to promote the O-Care treatment and this time round was heavily promoting an O-Care Aqua Tool App, which can be downloaded for free from the App Store and Google Play.

“Some people may question the fact that we are giving this app for free, but we want hot tub owners to enjoy safe water and this app is a very convenient and efficient way in which dealers can help to promote correct water maintenance.

“There has been a lot of time, money and effort to develop the app but I believe it will pay dividends by helping us to not only educate hot tub owners about how they should be treating their water, but also increase sales of O-Care as a result.

“Since we last appeared at the NEC we’ve picked up many dealers and have gained more interest this time round.”

Along with his exhibition duties, New Events Director Rob Saunders was helping to promote a water-filled Aqua Bike UK model to visitors during the two days of the event.

“We’ve had a lot of interest,” said Rob. “We’re now looking for dealers to help promote the Aqua Bike to specialist facilities throughout the UK.

“It’s already taken off in France and is currently achieving sales in Hungary, Switzerland and Germany as well. Our hope is that dealers can gain interest from prospective specialist health and rehabilitation customers.”

Now Rob, and his fellow New Events team members are aiming to link up with organisers of Leisure Industry Week, which is the UK’s largest trade show dedicated to the leisure industry, as part of the prospective radical change for the Hot Tub Living Expo.

“If it does come off, our intention is for us to have full control of the wet leisure element within the LIW format,” said Rob.

“This is an established exhibition and it has the obvious potential to help promote wet leisure companies, and the hot tub and swim spa brands they represent, alongside other leisure exhibitors.”

To find out more details about exhibiting as part of the new format for 2017 contact the team at New Events directly on + 44 1428 609 382 or email via:info@neweventsltd.com

 www.hottublivingexpo.com