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Pool & Spa News - January 8,1997

Special Judges Award

Long Island Hot Tubs and Paramount Pools are beautiful stores offering varied merchandise and personalized attention it you don’t mind waiting a day or so for an e-mail response. The truth is, owner Dan Harrison’s retail creations don’t exist in the real world.

A complement to Harrison’s mail-order catalog and Mastic, N.Y.-based pool/spa service business, they are virtual stores accessible only via the internet  In honor of his forward-thinking retailing and unique marketing efforts, however, the Retail Marketing judges for P/SN’s Awards for Professional Excellence have honored Harrison with a Special Judges Award.

Founded in 1980 as a pool service company, Paramount Pools opened a store in 1983 and then two years later added a second, spa-only store called Long Island Hot Tubs. The retail operations did booming business for several years until the recession devastated the region in 1990 and forced Harrison to close both stores. The company fell back on pool and spa service, and by 1992 Harrison had doubled his customer base and began hiring more technicians.

To maintain his hard-earned spa-customer List, he initiated a local mail-order service for aftermarket spa products, using a booklet-like mailer caller Hot Tub Life. the newsletter/catalog was chock-full of useful spa care information as well as product recommendations and listings. "The customers frequently told us that they (loved) their Hot Tub Life newsletter and gained a lot of information from it." Harrison writes in his contest entry. "They also told us how much easier it was for them to call us up and order their supplies over the phone, rather then come to a store.

We knew that we were something good." The more the service side grew, however, the harder it was to keep up with it until Harrison invested in a $30,000 customized computer system to handle and track the 200 plus call the firm received a day at peak season. The adjustment to working with a computer system was difficult Harrison recalls, but it also set the scene for the next step in his firm's evolution: the internet

"In 1995 we started hearing about a thing called the internet and immediately interested us because, at last, it offered us a way to greatly expand our spa chemical and accessory mail-order business nationwide for a very small investment," he states. Over the fall and winter of 1995-96, the Long Island Hot Tub team studied the Internet and then planned, developed, programmed and created a 150-page pool-and-spa Web site.

Separated into a spa store and a pool store, the site offers product listings, articles, chemical-use instructions, links to other pool/spa sites and even a version of the company’s new, full color spa-accessory catalog customers can download or get on a computer disk.

"Now, we deal with pool and spa owners from all over the country on a daily basis and have increased our Hot Tub Life newsletter mailing list from 2000 to more than 22,000 people in less than a year" Harrison writes. "This has greatly increased our aftermarket spa product sales and we can see it getting better and better every week. Truly, this was being in the right place at the right time with the right idea," he says.

Our judging panel could not have agreed more: "They have done a terrific job of marketing their product to a larger market than most companies would ever think of" writes panelist Fred Horvitz. "Their idea of going on the Internet — and doing it so well — is a very good sales tool." Judge Greg Markell was also impressed by Long Island Hot Tubs’ efforts to provide a steady flow of information to its customers and cross-sell additional products and services to those customers. The company shows a strong understanding of (and commitment to) one of the most important parts of any marketing plan," he concludes, "cementing customer relationships and using those relationships to build additional sales."

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