Hot tub dealers frustrated with supply chain issues and price fluctuations amid a booming market have a new option when it comes to sourcing their products: European hot tub makers.
In fact, in the last several years a number of prominent European hot tub manufacturers such as Superior Wellness and Wellis have made the leap into the U.S. market. And thanks to a number of related trends, it’s likely more will follow, according to experts.
There are four main reasons:
- Lower energy costs, which make sourcing product in the U.S. more attractive.
- Supply chain issues that were exposed during the pandemic.
- Political volatility, which has made the European market more difficult to navigate, and thus made the comparatively stable U.S. market more attractive.
- A weak euro versus the dollar, which makes European products more affordable.
“European manufacturers, like all manufacturers, are seeking to mitigate risk in an environment that is currently facing an unusually high level of uncertainty,” said Chicago-based Steve Kozarits, senior vice president, industrial services, with real estate services firm Transwestern in an article on Wealthmanagement.com. Kozarits noted that risk right now can be tied to many factors, including political instability, labor shortages, the availability and cost of energy, shipping infrastructure and taxes. “To succeed, companies must build resilience in their supply chain through greater flexibility, competitive pricing and timely accessibility to required resources,” he added.
It also doesn’t hurt that the U.S. hot tub market is booming more than ever. According to Mordor Intelligence, a firm that connects businesses with market insights and analysis, the hot tub market is expected to register a compound annual growth rate of 9.6% through 2026.
With close to 100 spa manufacturers in the U.S., competition is already fierce. But a weak euro has also made European products more affordable.
“The euro’s value has fallen sharply against the dollar in recent months. In the summer of 2021, €1still cost $1.20. By mid-July 2022, the European currency was worth just $1.00. This is the lowest exchange rate in 20 years. A weak euro helps European companies that sell their products in the U.S.,” according to globaleurope.eu
Many dealers started selling European hot tubs out of necessity amid the supply chain crunch. “At the time, I was in the same boat as everyone else. I couldn’t get enough from my domestic suppliers,” said Tyler Smith, owner of Mountain Mist Pool and Spa in Longmont, Colorado, which now carries Wellis hot tubs. “We have a number of happy customers out there who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to get a hot tub.”
Though supply was the impetus for offering European hot tubs, Smith said good customer service and innovation around ease of ownership and energy efficiency is what’s keeping him ordering.
“This industry has seen very little innovation,” he said. “The better manufacturers are focusing on how to make these things easier to own and cheaper to own on the back end. The jet race is done.”
A good example of a company capitalizing on all of these trends is Superior Wellness, which bills itself as the biggest hot tub supplier in the U.K. and “the world’s fastest growing hot tub manufacturer.”
The 12-year-old company supplies hot tubs, swim spas and other related products to more than 200 partners across the U.K., Europe and the U.S. But it only entered the U.S. market two years ago, according to Graham Message, the company’s business development director.
“It had been planned for some time to correspond to our own growth plans and expansion,” Message said. “Before we could do this, we needed to achieve certain goals to allow us the best opportunity to sell our award-winning products.”
He added that the U.S. market—estimated at nearly $900 million—is likely bigger than the U.K. and European markets combined. While a handful of other European firms have jumped into the U.S. market, the penetration of that market is minimal, “which in itself means we have a great opportunity going forward,” Message said.
Superior Wellness has set up warehouse facilities in Savannah, Georgia, on the East Coast and Fontana, California, on the West Coast. Message said it’s just the beginning.
Smith said that having the “infrastructure here for parts and service” is key for him working with European manufacturers. But sometimes he still can’t quite believe he’s selling hot tubs from overseas.
“I’ve been doing this since I was 14 years old and I never fathomed we’d be selling hot tubs from Hungary,” he said. “But then there’s a lot of things I never expected.”