As Editor in Chief of Pool Magazine; I talk to my fair share of experts in the trade. In fact, it’s fair to say that I must discuss the state of the industry at least a few times a week with various elite pool builders and thought leaders.
What I’m hearing from many lately, is that the Covid ride for pools is over and that demand is beginning to taper off. By and large, what we’re seeing in the market this year is a completely different story than the last two years when it comes to the demand for pools.
It seems that homeowner interest is finally starting to die down. Already this year on the pool construction side we’re hearing that leads and sales are slower this spring than in years past and that the number of homeowners inquiring about building a pool has decelerated.
This jibes with what we are seeing from a number of fronts and could finally signal the “pop” of the pandemic “pool bubble”. It’s not just builders and industry pundits who feel a change stirring in the wind, manufacturers are also reporting a decline in sales. With inflation issues beginning to cause a diminishment in consumer confidence, it’s unlike that this year will be a repeat of the explosive demand we saw in 2020 through the end of 2021.
Many pool builders were unable to fully capitalize on the surge in demand due to issues with getting supplies and materials in a timely fashion. Labor also became a major pain point for builders as the Covid-19 pandemic wore on. Limited options for travel amidst quarantine conditions caused a perfect storm for a spike in interest from consumers. Suddenly, a summer in the backyard didn’t seem like such a bad idea; provided one could still build a pool.
With the country finally getting back to a “business-as-usual” attitude after Omicron hit the media, many consumers finally have the option to travel again. After a two-year hiatus, one of the hardest-hit industries was travel and tourism. Expect a resurgence in this sector in 2022 through 2023 and the converse to hold true about new pool construction.
Building a pool in 2022 has suddenly become a much more expensive proposition than in years past which could effectively be pricing many consumers out of the market. According to PoolCost.com the average cost of a swimming pool has gone up substantially over the past two years.
Consumer interest is cyclical in nature when it comes to demand for pools. Those in the pool industry will remember the 2008 recession that saw hundreds if not thousands of pool companies fall casualty to the mortgage crisis. While nowhere near the scale of the conditions we saw back then — many analysts predict we could be looking at another recession.
The mitigating factors for this decline:
- The country is no longer under quarantine and consumers have the option to travel once again.
- Rising construction costs due to inflation are pricing a large percentage of consumers out of the market for an inground swimming pool.
- A rise in interest rates to combat inflation is coming, this is bound to affect consumer spending.
- Builders are already inundated from contracts they sold the previous year and are marketing less aggressively to consumers.
While we still have the ’22 pool season to look forward to and existing pent-up demand from consumers who were unable to get a pool built — the number of homeowners seeking to build a pool from ‘23-’24 is expected to drop significantly. With that said, this season could very well be a calm before the storm in terms of declining demand.
Over the last two years, this industry saw the type of unprecedented growth it has never seen before. While I’m not in any way suggesting we’ll see the sort of conditions we saw in ’08, a change in the consumer climate is certainly looming on the horizon. It bears asking the question… what does ’23 revenue look like once consumer interest wanes?