Today, most retailers see finance as a service they offer to customers, helping them to buy what they want, when they want it. In the last year top selling hot tub retailer, Blue Wave Spas has sold over £3 million in finance-only sales. In uncertain economic times offering no hassle, soft-sell finance means Blue Wave’s customers can buy what they want, when they want it, without having to sacrifice savings or negotiate with unwilling lenders such as banks and building societies. Ross Phillipson of Blackpool-based Blue Wave has seen the effect on sales: “We offer customers a number of finance packages through CCS including ‘Buy Now Pay Later’, as well as interest bearing or low interest rate deals. But by far the most popular is the interest free option,” says Ross. “We now offer credit on line which has proved very popular. It appeals to customers who want to sort out finance in their own time and by themselves. “It’s proved an effective sales tool as many customers know what they want and prefer to sort out finance without involving one of our salespeople. It’s increased sales and allowed us to continue reinventing and improving ourselves as a company.”
Retailers in all home improvement sectors, not just water leisure, are in no doubt that finance has helped their business. Sometimes credit makes the difference between ‘sale’ or ‘no sale’, but most often by making funds available instantly, it brings the sale forward and invariably increases the value of the order. An average loan in the pool and spa market is £5,500 while in the home improvement markets the average loan is just under £5,000 but this can go up to £50,000 or more. Most homeowners have an idea of what they would like when they meet the salesperson, only to have their dream curtailed when they learn how much the dream will cost.
“Offering finance is a required service – it helps consumers afford a quality product and pay for it over a period of time,” says Duncan Simcox, Commercial Director of Jacuzzi UK. “Our average selling price has definitely increased since the introduction of finance. It allows us to maintain our pricing structure and offer the consumer a package that suits most, from six months to 96 months payment terms.” Richard Hart, Managing Director of Aqua Warehouse and a Vita Spa distributor, estimates about 10% of sales are through finance with typical values, buying middle to top end, between £7k and £15k. “I find it quite straight forward as long as you are used to dealing with paperwork,” says Richard. “I think some customers are that type of person and tend to finance every purchase in their lives. “A common misconception is that a finance customer is from a lower income bracket. I fi nd this totally untrue. The more they earn, the more they want the lifestyle but don’t want to wait to save up for it!”
Consumer Credit Solutions (CCS) is a licensed credit broker that specialises in the home improvement sector. It operates on a partnership basis with many of the UK’s leading ‘blue-chip’ credit and finance houses. Established in 1998, it is by far the largest independent provider of point-of-sale credit plans, specialising in the home improvement sector. In pools and spas, CCS customers include major players Jacuzzi and Blue Wave, as well as HotSpring Spas, Hot Tubs Superstore, Arctic Spas and Catalina Spas. CCS pioneered ‘soft-sell’, low interest or interest free finance. “People think the better off don’t want finance, don’t need it or will arrange it themselves,” says Consumer Credit Solutions’ Managing Partner, Andy Wallace. “This is a proverbial urban myth. They are more likely to understand and appreciate the benefits and use it.