Toe Dippers

Toe Dippers

Karen Cotton soaks up the potential of hot tub hire…

With interest in hot tubs at an all-high, it is important to realise that not everyone’s in a position where they can splash out thousands on one… at least not from the outset. After all, hot tubs are a big investment. If it were a car, you would have had – at very least – the option of a test drive. Thanks to the latest generation of inflatable hot tubs, it’s now possible to give owners that opportunity to experience the benefits of ownership, if only for a short period.

Offering a hire facility can unlock big rewards for the companies involved, too, acting as a real promotional vehicle that opens the door to larger purchases… To understand this better, we chatted with a few companies who have benefitted. Barnsley Hot Tubs founder Shaun Pickles first dipped his toe into the hot tub market back in 2014. Identifying a high level of interest in hot tub hire and a lack of competition, he began hiring out inflatables in the Barnsley area. By using social media cleverly – including tie-ins with local radio – word quickly spread about his company. Now, Barnsley Hot Tubs has more than 15,000 Facebook followers. Just two years after starting, Shaun made the decision to enter retail. He explains: “More and more customers were looking to purchase their own hot tubs, so it made sense to respond to that need.

Toe Dippers 2“We worked with a couple of brands before eventually settling on Marquis Spas. “As interest in the retail side increased, it became clear that the hire side was getting more and more time-consuming. I could easily spend all weekend just setting up and taking down. “My biggest concern was ensuring water quality so that water is always clean and hygienic. This became an even bigger issue when we began seeing new companies enter the local market, often with little experience in chemical treatments.” As the sales side of the business grew stronger, Shaun made the decision to focus solely on retail and the business has gone from strength to strength since. Bury-based Marquise Spas was born after Kath Garnett decided to hire a hot tub one weekend for her husband Stu seven years ago. “When it arrived, the company simply put it on a plastic sheet and left,” she recalls.” That evening, we thought, ‘you know, we could do this miles better than that.’” “The following week, we went out and bought three which were on hire just days later – complete with gazebos for a more enjoyable experience. “It wasn’t long before word of mouth spread about the service we were offering and we quickly had 20 on the go.” With more and more customers keen to enjoy their hot tubs all-year round, Marquise made the first inroads into retail in 2014.

Spa sales play a more prominent role in the business nowadays. Earlier this year, Kath and Stu opened up their first showroom, near Bury, earlier this year. Marquise Spas is an authorised dealer for Elite Spas and a supplier of the Aspen, Alps and Zen Spa ranges. While the company still hires out hot tubs, it has been scaled down due to time limitations. “We hold between 10 and 15 MSpa inflatables in stock, but only have six on hire at any given time. This allows us to give the time and attention to those hiring and we’ve found hot tub hire to be an effective seeding tool for ‘proper’ hot tub ownership.” “While some customers opt to purchase outright after hiring, some prefer a longer-term hire period to see just how much use they’d get from it as a bit of a final test before purchasing outright.” While many hire out equipment for the holidays and events, at Marquise Spas, birthday parties are a popular choice. “However the kids can treat tubs like paddling pools… and that affects the safety of your water,” warns Kath. “That’s why we advise our hirers to keep fresh water next to the steps at all times and to encourage the young ones to wash their feet before entering.” At 36 to 38 degrees, water can be a breeding ground for harmful bacteria that can cause rashes and make users ill. Make sure you always have the knowledge and skills necessary to keep water clean and hygienic … and the confidence to share that with each hire customer. Kath Garnett of takes this even further. She explains: “You need to ensure your customers are aware of issues relating to chemicals. After you train them, do make sure you get them to sign a document confirming their understanding.”

Lay-Z-Spa is the world’s first premium, inflatable hot tub and UK’s bestselling hot tub brand. With a decade of advanced engineering innovations and experience, we have the most trusted, innovative range of premium inflatable hot tubs in the world. Bringing together affordability and portability, it’s no wonder that Lay-Z-Spa is a top choice for hot tub hire companies. Marketing Manager Tom Ellyat explains: “There does seem to be opportunity in this area, but it is not easy to scale. Opportunities seem to be fairly localised. It is probably better suited to bouncy castle and kids’ party businesses over traditional hot tub retailers.” He continues: “Unlike many hard shell tubs, Lay-Z-Spas are quick to set up and pack away into a box, can fit through doorways without the need to be craned in and out of the garden. They are relatively low weight to carry, easy to clean after hire, fairly simple to repair and there is an abundance of spare parts available. “Another benefit is that as a well-known consumer brand, hot tub hire customers recognise the brand of hot tub that they are hiring and are therefore more willing to part with their money. And, often, consumers are hiring to try before they buy.” Tom confirms his two stand-out choices for customers: the brand-new Helsinki Airjet and the classic Monaco Airject. Both models have a high capacity seating up to 7 and 8 people respectively and benefit from ultra-rigid and durable drop-stitch construction, meaning it is perfect for regular party use. Hot tub manufacturer RotoSpa UK currently supplies units to more than 70 hire companies across the country, as well as offering its own hire service through its sister company Sutton Spas. RotoSpa UK produces a range of rotationally moulded quality hot tubs which are robust, lightweight, run off standard power and fit through most doorways, and are subsequently recognised as one of the leading brands for hire purposes.

Last year Sutton Spas carried out 230 Rotospa hires in the West Midlands – a mixture of seven day, weekend and long term hires. Typical price points can vary across regions, but Sutton Spas charge around £199 for a weekend entry level package, going up to £315 for a luxury package. A £50 deposit is payable at the time of booking to secure the hire and then the remaining balance is due a week before delivery. In terms of lifespan, Sutton Spas replace their units on an annual basis to allow them to achieve a strong second hand value and to ensure they have a fleet of spas in tip-top condition. “We see a split between those who are booking for a social gathering such as a birthday or hen do, those booking to experience the relaxing benefits of tub use and those who want to ‘try before they buy’,” comments Jason Smith, Sales Director at RotoSpa UK “Spas are big ticket items so it’s completely understandable that the general public want to try a spa in the comfort of their own garden before making an expensive purchase.” Jason believes that the hire process is a vital tool in securing sales of hot tubs: “Of the 20 units Sutton Spas hired out over Christmas and New Year we sold five of them. “Likewise, one of RotoSpa’s most successful customers is selling to approximately one in ten of their hire bookings.”

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