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International Pool, Spa & Patio Expo - 2013 IPSPE Trade Show Review

November 14, 2013
By Daniel Harrison, PoolAndSpa.com News
Las Vegas, NV USA


Mandalay Bay Casino, Hotel & Convention Center In Vegas

Upbeat & Enthusiastic Mood Felt By Many

The International Pool, Spa & Patio Expo was held at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center, in Las Vegas, NV USA, from 11/11/13 through 11/14/13. Everyone we spoke to had the same overwhelming opinion - which was "Wow" !

After almost 4 full years of declining sales figures, and an overall Jimmy Carter-like "malaise" feeling that had spread pervasively throughout the pool & spa industry, this recent trade show had a totally opposite feeling. Everyone spoke of their 2013 sales as being "slightly up" or the unheard of "greatly up" this year!

Was this possible? Was it within the realm of possibility that the pool & spa industry could possibly bounce back from the greatest depression that had ever hit this market segment?

Well, actually......the answer at this show seemed to be a resounding "yes".

The weather in Vegas was particularly great this week (sunny and 80 degrees), the stock market just hit another all-time high and consumers seemed to be spending on pools & spas again. All of these factors played into a "perfect-storm" of enthusiasm at this year's IPSPE show.

"It was a refreshing change" said PoolAndSpa.com's Customer Service Manager Shawn Davis. "This was the best, most upbeat trade show I have been to since 2007", he reported. "Over the last 3-4 years, each show seemed to get worse and worse." He did not mean that the actual show (IPSPE Show) was better or worse, Shawn was speaking about the attitude of both the attendees and the exhibitors.

"There was so much 'doom and gloom' over the past few years from the extended recession", he notes. "But this show was tremendously different. The feeling of optimism - the fact that we had all lived through the 'bottom' - was pervasive among all the people I spoke with at the show. Hanley Wood did a great job of putting this show together".


Marquis Spas' Booth At The IPSPE Trade Show

"As Vegas goes, so goes the nation" said Jeff Baxter, General Manager of Poolandspa.com, a Vegas resident of over 11 years. "I don't know if that is really the  saying, but I do know that the Vegas market for pools & spas was the first to fall in the nation due to the Recession. And was the hardest hit in the nation, during that fall. But now, things are turning around rather rapidly - in pool & spa sales, in parts and aftermarket sales, in the local housing market, local gaming revenues and tourism."

He continues "If you never watched the news on TV, you would never know that there was a recession here in Vegas this year, especially at this IPSPE show". He notes that "All the booths at the show were busy, all the restaurants & bars were full, and all the gaming tables were busy as well. A stark contrast to the past few trade show conventions that have been held in Vegas."

"The Forward-Thinking companies are the ones who are benefiting at this point" says Jeff. "Those that looked at this recession as a selling opportunity are the companies who appear to be coming out stronger, with more sales, gaining more dealers, and ultimately gaining more market share".

Ethan Johnson, IT Manager for Poolandspa.com, notes that "I have definitely seen that the pool & spa manufacturing companies that have "stayed the course" during this recession have come out as the winners. The companies that had the 'hunkering-down' mentality are either suffering now - or have gone out of business altogether."

Ethan's feelings were mirrored by many of the attendees and exhibitors. "Not to put a damper on the enthusiasm that you see here at the show, but there is still a lot of pain out there in this industry....and a lot of the remaining pain is evident by the fact that some of those big companies that used to be here, no longer are" said one industry insider.


Dan Harrison with Rebecca Robledo from Pool & Spa News

Dominick Austin of Premium Leisure Spas reported that "Our sales were great this year. Far better than we expected. We did a number of Home Improvement Shows in multiple locations for various dealers and the sales numbers were extremely positive."

As a long time industry veteran, Dominick has been through all the good times and bad times over the past 35 years. "You have to go through the bad times to really appreciate what you have in the good times. And it seems that things are looking up for our industry as a whole at this point" he adds.

Many exhibitors and attendees echoed that same attitude. "Many of our dealers in the pool & spa industry have seen record increases in consumer sales during this recession - especially this year (2013)" says an industry exhibitor. "The folks that had the 'pull-into-the-turtle-shell' mentality, are either out of business or in bankruptcy court!"

One long time industry attendee noted that "Each and every time that I have had a profitable company, it was solely because of proper marketing - regardless of the prevailing economic conditions. In retrospect, every time I was involved with a company that has failed, it was due to the company's inability to adjust rapidly to the changing retail environment of the time. The companies at this show are the ones who know how to survive and grow."

Rodney Eudy of Artesian Spas said that "We have not seen this level of enthusiasm and sales from our dealers in years. Honestly, this show feels like 2006 again. We are doing great. Our 2013 sales saw a huge increase and judging by this show, 2014 looks to be shaping up to be just as good - if not better."

Chris Warhol from Clearwater Spas reports that "Our sales have been strong this year. And with the addition of our new brand of Birch Bay Hot Tubs, we are looking at 2014 as another year of growth." Larry Richards, the new CEO of Clearwater is also very positive for the prospects of 2014. "Clearwater Spas has a very solid dealer base nationwide. Birch Bay Hot Tubs will only add more value for our dealers, offering a high quality, yet lower priced line of tubs, so that they may accommodate all price levels requested by some hot tub consumers." He adds "Clearwater Spas is expanding in our Internet and Social presence, in order to reach a larger percentage of customers in the coming year."


The Coast Spas Booth Was A Big Hit With Convention Goers, Especially These Vegas Showgirls!

The Coast Spas booth was located close to the front entry for the Convention, and they had many new eye-popping hot tubs to show this year. Even a few Las Vegas Showgirls couldn't resist their beautiful new red hot tub (see photo at left).

Don Elkington, Owner of Coast stated that "The improvement in the economy really shows in the hot tub industry. Year after year sales, and interest in hot tubs, have been growing and the Coast Spas brand has been thriving as a result. Our global reach allows us to maintain a steady level of increased production as economies around the globe fluctuate with the times."

He also commented that "Coast Spas continues to give a Dealer THE EDGE. Every person or attendee with a camera and/or a smart phone took pictures of our patented Infinity Edge Hot Tubs this year. The only hot tub ‘as a compete unit’ that is patented worldwide. It is truly a piece of engineering wonder in a portable Spa. Once again our success in welcoming new dealers to the Coast Spas family at the Pool Spa Patio Show was because of our Cascade Vanishing Edge hot tubs."

Cal Spas is also moving forward, out of the Recessionary period. One of their spokesmen stated at the show that "Our sales of hot tubs, swim spas and backyard kitchens and fireplaces were surprisingly strong in 2013 - and we will be focusing more on those niches in our business model in 2014. Our new upcoming Evolution Series of hot tubs are sure to be a hit in 2014. Also, our new Roto Molded designs will fill in the gap for the lower end hot tub purchasers in 2014." The Cal Spas new Roto Molded Hot Tub line is very unique, compared to many other Roto Manufacturers.

Brad de Koning of L.A. Spas & his team were showing a vast new array of both hot tubs and swim spas for 2014. Their new spa models and swim spa designs will surely be a hit amongst consumers in 2014! Additionally, Dave Wood Of Pool Search, Spa Search & Spa Retailer Magazine also commented that "We are very pleased at the turnout at this show. Our Certified Manufacturer and Certified Builder Programs have done very well in 2013, and we are looking forward to promoting the highest quality manufacturers & dealers in 2014 too. Our magazines and dealer programs have been well received at this years' IPSPE Show, and we look forward to putting more of our promotional efforts into those companies who are interested in reaching the new age of consumers through both our Internet and Print Media outlets in 2014."


A new "Concept Model" Hot Tub From Bullfrog Spas

Jake Ricks of Bullfrog Spas was also displaying an impressive collection of production model hot tubs for 2014 - as well as some really cool one-off  "Concept Hot Tubs" too (see photo at left). You really can't beat Bullfrog Spas when it comes to their patented moveable seating. And all their new 2014 models glistened in their booth at the show!

Matt Giovanisci of Swim University had never been to the Vegas IPSPE show. "I have been in this industry for 12 years, and being from New Jersey, I have always attended the Atlantic City trade show instead. I almost did not even come to Vegas this year, but made the decision to do so at the last minute. I am sure glad I came. This show is great and I got a chance to see many of my West Coast contacts on a face to face basis for the first time."

He continued saying that "The enthusiasm of both the exhibitors and the attendees was very evident in almost every conversation I had. I am really looking forward to 2014 after hearing the success stories from all these guys!"

Matt will be starting up a new venture in 2014 called StartSplashing.com which will be a B2C site focusing on consumer awareness and product education for Pools & Spas. He will also be offering Sponsorships on the site in order to roll-out a national ad campaign for the Pool & Spa Industry with similar goals.

Jim Johnston of Marquis Spas noted that "So many hot tub dealers have gone out of business during the last few years. However the ones that are left standing are the high quality guys. Metro areas that used to have 40-50 hot tub stores now only have 4 or 5. So the survivors are now doing very well. Honestly, how many hot tub dealers can really survive in a town of 50,000 - 100,000 people? Even in a market penetration area of 1 million people? I think that we are finally back to a realistic and sustainable amount of high quality dealers in each of our best selling regions  throughout the country. And those guys are doing well - and so are we."

He added that "Our growth in 2013 has been the strongest we have experienced in almost a decade. We know our commitment to product development investment during the past 3 or 4 difficult years in the economy and our strengthened marketing support have resulted in substantial response and momentum today. We broadened our hot tub concepts and options to offer a wider array of products to meet a broad spectrum of consumer types and the differing benefits they seek. Consumer response and demand to our rejuvenated products was the driver of our continued growth."


IPSPE Welcome Party at LIGHT Nightclub on 11/12/13

"The companies that were able to manage scaling down over the past 36 months, are the lean ones who will survive" says Elaine David, V.P. of advertising sales for Poolandspa.com. "However no one should forget that there are still some dinosaurs out there, who were not actually able to change with the times - and many of them are being pulled down by their own weight".

She continues, "On a real positive note, the pool & spa companies that are left standing - after this deep and dark recession - are truly the industry leaders. They are companies who have survived many recessions before - and are the companies that will ultimately survive, and be able to provide the customers of the future with much better pool & spa products for years to come".

"I don't have to be 'politically correct' here" says Ken Ampel, Senior Marketing V.P. for the East Coast Advertising division of Poolandspa.com. "So I am gonna call it like I see it. Most of my clients that have continued to put money into their dealers, and the marketing of their products, are coming out winners - and real big winners. Those that have not...are not. Period".

Josh Reynolds from Atera AnyTemp Spas says that "Word of mouth advertising and a tremendous referral business have been major factors in our continued growth during these challenging economic times. Our business model provides exclusively featured high quality products at a factory direct wholesale price. The entire purchase, delivery, set up and start up experience is facilitated directly by a member of our Atera Team. We are committed to crafting 100% of our products in the The United States of America and we are convinced that our client friends are eager to support innovative, high quality American Manufacturers whenever possible." He continues that "Promotions providing a complete accessory package and a free freight allowance always seems to appeal to prospective clients. They appreciate "one stop" shopping and having an American company with a great reputation facilitate the entire ownership experience. The hundreds of client friend referral letters and photographs we receive every year substantiates our belief."

Michelle Zollinger of Latham International comments that "We had a great year in 2013. Just focusing on our top 5 inground pool brands has definitely helped - and all of our brands are performing exceptionally well. Our new ad agency has definitely done a great job for us, and we are very happy with all of our marketing efforts in 2013."

Also present in the Swimming Pool Category at the show this year were Aloha Fiberglass Pools. Their one-piece fiberglass inground pool models, coupled with their new LED lit, water-line and bottom tile designs, set them apart. Debbie Vens, Senior Sales & Marketing Coordinator says that "I am very happy to be a part of Aloha this year. We will be increasing our marketing efforts in 2014 to spread the word about our new, high quality fiberglass one-piece pool designs." She adds that "My out-of-industry experience with Internet marketing across other industries will hopefully be a big help to Aloha in 2014. I look forward to working with them, and promoting their high quality brand in 2014."


Quirky best product of the show! Portable purple egg shaped
toilet/sink/shower! What will they think of next?

Betty Carter, Advertising Manager for Poolandspa.com, notes that "I was only able to attend the show on one day, but I could immediately tell, from speaking with the exhibitors, that things seem to be changing for the better - and fast".

"It was quite a pleasant surprise to see so many 'old' faces here this year" said Betty Carter. "From what you hear on the news every day, you would think that we were in a Depression like the 1930's. But seeing all these happy attendees and exhibitors at this years' show, you really got a great feeling of hope." After a recession, it is truly the consumer who benefits. "The quality of the pool & spa products available today is head-over-heels better than the pool & spa products of the past 30 years."

"The recent technological advances in the pool & spa industry are unprecedented. Inflation has really not hit this industry - yet. The overall quality of a $7000 hot tub today is unparalleled - compared to that of, say, 5 or 10 years ago" she adds.

While all these great and positive comments are wonderful, only time will tell if these upbeat attitudes will still be the same one year from now, at the next IPSPE show in Orlando, Florida.

Hopefully, they will be even better !

© Copyright 2013 by PoolAndSpa.com Inc. Reproduction rights to article permitted with credit to PoolAndSpa.com News. No back-link needed.


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