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Spa & Sauna Magazine - September 1986

Long Island Hot Tubs Retail Store Makes a Difference

Daniel Harrison. Owner
Store size: 1,300 square feet
Market area: 1½ million
Customer base: 29 to 43 age group
Years in business: 6

Products carried: Portables, in grounds, hot tubs, tanning beds chemicals, accessories, furniture enclosures
Employees:    10

Displaying a spa makes all the difference, attests Daniel Harrison, owner of Long Island Hot Tubs in Centereach, New York. Harrison sold spas for four years, before opening a showroom in November 1985. With a showroom to display them, sales increased a phenomenal 400 percent. "We originally started selling spas out of a pool service store" explained Harrison. ‘We had catalogs that customers looked at if they were interested in buying one."

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We got the 1985 Spa Dealer of the Year Award from A.J. Spa distributors. But display makes the real difference. Simply by opening our doors, with no advertising or promotion, our business increased 400 percent. ‘‘The point of this," Harrison added, is that any pool guys who expect people to just walk in the door and who expect to hit the Mother Lode in spa sales are wrong. They won’t strike anything unless they display and really emphasize spas."


Not only is it important to exhibit a spa for customers to look at, but the visual presentation of the spa in the showroom provides a critical difference as well, according to Harrison. "We used to pack the units in the showroom and found out that that just confused customers. What we have now are nice settings of spas. We’ve tried to cut down the number of spas to make the showroom look nicer and more open.

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Now four or five units occupy the showroom. Mirrors and large professional photos of attractive installations decorate cedar walls. Plants and gray carpeting emphasize the luxury aspect of spas. ‘We’ve really tried to make the showroom visually gorgeous," Harrison remarked. "The idea of this showroom is not to make people think that they’re in a pool store, but that they’re in a Ferrari showroom."

Harrison is very sales-oriented, an essential for the spa business, he said. "When people walk in a car showroom, they know what a car is and what extras they want with it. With spas, so much of the sales is not closing, but selling from scratch. There’s a lot more selling that spa dealers have to do.  "Advertising," according to Harrison, "needs to be focused toward educating the consumer as well as selling."

"Some of the spa dealer ads I’ve seen are really great - if people are really familar with the product. But, for the most part, we’re selling gobblydegooks. People just don’t know what a spa is.

So we’ve tried to gear our advertising differently — to be more explanatory about the product and how it works, It’s a slow education process, but in the long run that’s what is going to take this business and really shoot its sales up."

Originally, Harrison concentrated his advertising budget on newspapers, but he has altered his advertising strategy since opening the showroom.  "All we do now is direct mail. It gives people a lot of information. We have a big computer system and track down all the leads we have. In six months, we’ve already done 31 different pieces. We try to do one a week and focus on a particular group. For example, we mail to doctors one week and lawyers the next. We’re trying to see whet works. Some groups work very well and others fail."

Long Island Hot Tubs sells Regency spas and a line of Jarrah wood hot tubs and furniture by Hingston Hot Tubs. At the moment, portables dominate inground sales nine to one.  The company prides itself on installation and service, providing the customer with a one year parts and labor in-home service contract. "One of the few bones I have to pick with spa manufacturers is that, for the most part, they don’t have a labor contract for the customer."So if a part is faulty, the manufacturer may replace it, but it’s the dealer who has to eat the Labor costs.

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I offer the Parts and Labor contract to my customers because I don’t feel right as a businessman not having that to offer them.  "Long Island residents fall into the $25,000 to $30,000 income group, according to Harrison (1986 STATISTICS) . It's a very good economic area. I’m very happy with the Long Island market. People spend a lot of money here on luxury items. They just can’t spend the money quickly enough. ‘We have to work with people’s perceptions of how they perceive their leisure time. What we’re trying to do is add a spa in there."