With 2022 in the rearview mirror, it’s time to start thinking about what trends pool and spa professionals need to keep an eye on in the new year, especially as the market cools.
“The rush of new builds has slowed in the last year and will continue to slow in 2023, but people still want to invest in their homes and yards and improve on the amenities they already have,” said Sabeena Hickman, PHTA CEO. “PHTA members have cautious optimism for 2023. Nobody is expecting 2020 or 2021 levels, but consumer interest remains.”
Here’s a look at five key trends Hickman said will be most important to maintaining healthy business—and why.
1. Inflation. Hickman said inflation will impact the pool and hot tub industry across all sectors and needs to be top of mind for 2023. She said builders and manufacturers will have to continue paying more for supplies and materials, while retailers will find it costlier to keep their shelves stocked.
Inflationary repercussions will hit elsewhere, too. “Inflation is also impacting salaries, and workers are looking both within the industry and to other industries to earn higher wages,” she said.
2. Supply chain. Hickman pointed to reports from P.K. Data Inc. that show 88% of builders surveyed reporting difficulty and delays in getting pool equipment and 71% having difficulty getting raw materials. Plastics, in particular, were causing bottlenecks.
“Builders have had to start sourcing equipment and materials from a wider range of suppliers just to meet demand. As the pandemic starts to slow down more now, members are hopeful that supply chain issues will lessen, but it will still be a concern for 2023,” she said.
3. Labor. Hickman said the same P.K. Data report showed that 77% of builders suffered shortages in labor supply. She expects that trend to continue affecting pros in 2023.
“When the demand for pool building went through the roof during the pandemic, finding skilled labor—and retaining those qualified workers—became much more challenging,” she said.
She added that retailers also had issues keeping their stores properly staffed. “We have heard from members across all sectors that workforce development will be a key focus in 2023.”
4. Shifts in customer service. The pandemic pool and spa boom brought a lot of untested—and unskilled—contractors into the market. Hickman said established pool and spa pros may need to clean up the messes less experienced contractors left behind amid the glut of new business.
“There may unfortunately be some homeowners who hired a less qualified pool builder during 2020-2021 and are now understanding the importance of working with a certified professional and hiring that certified professional to renovate their existing pool,” she said.
She added that now that the surge in demand for pools from 2020 and 2021 has slowed, the focus must shift to retaining those new clients and building on those relationships.
5. Legislation. Jason Davidson, PHTA director of government relations, expects a number of legislative issues to dominate in 2023. He said draconian drought restrictions are among the most concerning and that pros should look for guidance from ANSI/APSP/ICC-13 American National Standard for Water Conservation Efficiency in Pools, Spas, Portable Spas and Swim Spas.
There’s also a big opportunity for pros to take advantage of new legislation, Davidson said, in the form of the HOMES Rebate Program, which is part of the Inflation Reduction Act signed into law in August. The act includes $370 billion in energy and climate spending and tax breaks over the next decade, funds that can go toward higher-efficiency pools and spas.
In fact, the HOMES Rebate Program provides more than $4 billion to states to help residents make homes more energy-efficient, which includes upgrades to more efficient pool and spa equipment, Davidson said.
For instance, homeowners who make changes that cut their energy usage by at least 35% can get up to $4,000 in rebates. That amount is doubled for low- and middle-income households, which can get up to $8,000 in rebates, he said.