The eyes of the world will be on Britain this summer as the country celebrates a unique combination of events with the coinciding of both the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the London Olympics. The great British weather permitting; the summer of 2012 promises to be a ray of sunshine amid the recent years of prevailing economic storm clouds. A nation renowned for our music; our fashion, history and culture, a recent survey of the top ten British icons included red phone boxes, The Beatles, Carry On movies and HP sauce. Although it was believed to have been said previously, Napoleon is usually attributed with labeling the British as a nation of shopkeepers. Meant as an insult, as history testifies, Napoleon went on to eat his words as Britain, with half the population of France but a far higher manufacturing base could raise the necessary taxes to sustain an ultimately, victorious prolonged war of attrition.
While the battle lines are not quite so fiercely drawn, every pool and spa sale, both at home and abroad, can feel like a hard-won campaign. “The British have always been a resilient lot and the state of the UK pool market reflects this,” reflects Patrick Thorpe, chairman of Certikin International. UK-based Certikin is still regarded as the Britain’s best knownwater leisure ambassadors. “Certikin has concentrated on making the most of new sales growth potential, such as green technologies and helping
our customers maximise the potential of their market areas,” remarks Patrick.
“For instance, one customer recently asked us to quote for a single sauna for an hotel project,” Patrick explains. “With the help of our commercial department, he was able to convert this to a complete wellness suite, raising the order value five-fold.”
Outside of the UK, Certikin has been putting considerable resources into the Middle East and India.
“Our concerted efforts in India have resulted in an expansion in our presence from one branch to three,” confirms Patrick. As the UK’s foremost distributor, Certikin is uniquely placed to assess the market performance. “Collectively, the UK has dropped from 5000 new builds per year to a little over 1000, yet we are all still here.
“Imagine what it is going to be like when we all go forward again,” he enthuses. “Not unlike many industries the pool builders have stretched their areas of activity, more refurbishment, perhaps a few more hot tubs plus a little bit of commercial. “Necessity is the mother of invention,” Patrick adds. “This
recession has in many ways brought the pool industry closer together; be they builder, retailer, distributor or manufacturer,“ he comments.
Patrick believes the British pool builder has shown tenacity and flexibility by adapting their usual method of operation. He says: “If they were strictly liner pool builders they now probably do a few one piece pools or an occasional concrete pool. “If they are concrete pool builders they may very well do a little more commercial work and the odd wellness suite.” “We are helping each other to stretch our supply boundaries.
At the same time builders and retailers are raising their games, be it staff training by ISPE, greater exposure to the end users and a
very professional approach in all aspects of business. “Once a mind has been expanded it will never return to its original dimension” This is also true of businesses as well. I am absolutely convinced that when new pool building returns to more normal levels we will all expand rapidly.” Malcolm Brown, is the managing director of Country Leisure agrees: “We predict that the pool and spa market will only succeed once the recession is over and will grow quite rapidly due to the back log of people wanting to
have either a swimming pool or spa but have held back due to not knowing what the future holds regards to employment and business.”
Country Leisure are GRP specialists producing water leisure products such as swimming pool slides and steps for both home
and overseas markets, exporting to markets as far afield as America and Australia.
“Having seen a decline during the past three seasons, we are seeing an increase in orders at present,” says Malcolm. “The industry has declined in the lower end of the market due to the prolonged recession, however the more up market swimming pools seem to have held up. “I feel what continues to set the British pool and spa market apart from other countries, is the vast range of quality products available.”
Peter Adlington, managing director of Plastipack, the bubble cover manufacturer, is another successful British exporter. Over the past six years Plastipack has develop new products and services with the help local universities through the Knowledge Transfer Partnership government scheme , this has helped build our key worldwide export business to over 85% of our turnover.
“The British pool and spa industry compared to many other countries has developed and evolved over many years, compared with newer developing markets in South America and the far east,” comments Peter. “I recently visited Mexico that has recently set up a trade association to help pull together their industry, and set standards training in their rapidly expanding marketplace.
In the UK we have had the benefit and help for many years of trade associations, established suppliers, manufacturers and a strong trade press. “There is a wealth of knowledge, experience and passion that has been built up particularly with family business’s over generations. “In reality all recessionary times are cyclical it’s just ‘how long’,” says Peter. “I believe we still have tough times ahead for the next three to five years, this includes the majority of other counties in the western world. “The dynamics of our industry will continue to change further with consolidation and internet marketing . But the tide will turn and we will see the mergence of reformed strong marketplace for those businesses that can adapt and have a vision for the future. “
Calorex is a privately owned British company located near London, employing more than 150 people to design, manufacture and support a range of heat pumps and environmental control products that are exported to more than 60 countries. Its managing director, Richard Carrington, is also chairman of the British trade organisation, made up of an estimated 160 pool building companies, the Swimming Pool and Allied Trade Association.
Britain has a good reputation for manufacturing quality products,” says Richard. “Certainly, here at Calorex, we have stuck to our principles of manufacturing products that represent value for money rather than being the cheapest price for Internet sales.” “There is still a lot of opportunity for British product overseas as long as you pitch to the right audience and in the right way.” Richard says that British pool building standards are very highly regarded internationally with widespread respect for standards developed for specialist rather than general builders. He also felt the UK market was stronger for its historic investment in trade associations like SPATA, BISHTA and the ISPE.
“It is difficult out there but I still hear more positives than negatives,” he says. “I would like to think the liner pool business will come back when people feel a bit less restricted financially.” He emphasises: “I think the road to recovery will be paved with sustainability issues with tightened building regulations and the need to present swimming pools as energy and water efficient.”
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