Already weakened by the combined impacts of the economy and the weather, the spa sector is facing its severest challenge yet, warns Stephen Weller, one of the founder members of the UK and European spa trade. “The spa and swimspa market is saturated with the industry currently out-performing double glazing and time share sellers in questionable sales techniques and dubious claims,” says Stephen. “The internet is expensive for legitimate companies while used by the worst rogue traders and this will not change while major consumer shows, in the past enjoyed by many companies, are now a sales monopoly for one supplier,” Stephen continues.
“With all these concerns some independent sellers are also ‘brand –bully’ victims where they have become in debt through unrealistic flooring recommendations or have lost their ability to act as an independent business but they still have to stay ‘on message’ with a strategy that suits the brand but not their business,” explains Stephen. “They cannot react to the market as they see fit and their concerns are brushed aside by suppliers who insist sellers, ‘do as we say, not as we do’, as sales and margins drop.” Stephen predicts the trend for superstores stocking hot tubs and swimspas is set to increase, mostly stocked with cheaper Chinese models. Says Stephen: “Everything points to superstores moving into hot tubs and swimspas in a much bigger way. “Costco has been an established player for years and all these companies can source highly specified low cost spas and swimspas from China that are coming in at a fraction of North American prices. “Many industry insiders believe only a few well known American brands will be in the UK market by 2015 with perhaps these going through the remaining independent specialists and all other hot tub sales through superstores and the internet, as has happened to the above ground pool market.”
He says independent research highlights the major fears:
1 Sales poached by lower priced, out of area, sellers of the same brand.
2 Internet sites discounting your display brands with the blessing of the importer.
3 Investing in advertising and demonstrating a brand that shops without displays then undercut.
4 Too many companies selling the same brand so customers always want a low price match.
5 Importers and suppliers selling ‘direct’ through a front website or favoured firm. 6 Hot tub and swimspa brands available to all at special deals through pool wholesalers.
Says Stephen: “All this is leading to dealers questioning is there a future in swimspas and hot tubs for independents or are the costs and risks too high with the returns too low. “Master Spas Europe is very aware of the challenges ahead in 2013 and the concerns of prospective new distributors and dealerships,” he says. “This allows us to act in a unique and attractive way and to work with partners for a truly rewarding long term business relationship, based on realistic goals, business establishment and stability, so reducing risk and maximising profits in what are difficult times for ordinary products but surprisingly rewarding times for luxury products,” he adds.
Stephen welcomes like-minded retailers to come and see Master Spas Europe at the Lyon Piscine show in November and at UK Pool & Spa Expo in Birmingham in January. Says Stephen: “Hot tubs and swimspas are all we do and we do know how to do it well, even in changing times.”
Master Spas Europe
Tel. +44 (0)208 959 1529