How Our Industry Was Affected and What YOU Can Expect This Year!
Buying a Pool during COVID: There’s no doubt that 2020 has been a crazy roller coaster ride. Who knew when we started out in January where this year would take us. We’ve experienced it all here at Central Jersey Pools: highs, lows, and back again. We know you’ve been going through a lot too.
Our industry had no idea what to expect when COVID-19 hit. We, like everyone else, had never been through this type of event before. What we do know is that as the shutdown, stay at home and quarantine orders started rolling in, people started to turn to us for safe vacation alternatives.
This year more than any other has seen a huge increase in the desire for pools, spas and related equipment as more and more families sought a staycation at home.
We count ourselves lucky to have been so busy this past year, one of the few industries that can say that. However, that growth came with a lot of growing pains as we frantically tried to fulfill all our orders, even with backlogs of materials from our suppliers. The demand created one big logjam, one we’re still trying to get ahead of today.
Let’s take a look back at what 2020 meant to us, and you.
2020: A Timeline of Events in the Swimming Pool Industry
Early spring: The pool business is a seasonal one. As a result, we are busiest during only a few short months a year, usually mid-March to mid-July. As luck would have it, beginning of March was when all the panic hit and the shut downs started happening one after another. Because people were sent home from their jobs and classrooms, retail sales hit an all-time low, and this was certainly so for the pool industry.
In response, pool retailers didn’t stock as much on their shelves, which meant pool installers like us couldn’t get what we needed to do our jobs.
Late spring: Because people saw the writing on the wall and knew they couldn’t travel anywhere, they started to look at ways to entertain themselves at home. During this time, installation requests quadrupled in mid-April for us. However, the industry as a whole was not prepared to handle this huge increase in demand.
We had to rely on manufacturers to make the liners, filters, ladders and accessories we needed to install pools. But everything was shut down, causing a big delay all the way around. The calls were still coming in to us but we couldn’t do much about it. This was very frustrating.
Early Summer: Even when manufacturing plants started to reopen, progress was slow due to new safety procedures involving time for deep cleaning, mandated curfews, and social distancing protocols which slashed how many people could be in the plant at once. With fewer people in the building working fewer hours, coupled with the fact that orders kept coming in at a feverish pace, the process was still severely delayed.
This greatly impacted our ability to provide promises to our customers on lead times and delivery dates. Even though many of these things were out of our control, we know we let many of you down this past year.
Ensuring a Better Customer Experience in 2021
We can’t do anything about the past – we can only look to the future. To that end, we are putting procedures in place to ensure a smoother, more satisfying customer experience in 2021.
- Hired additional customer support representatives to respond to your calls and concerns.
- Retrained existing staff to process orders and respond to inquiries.
- Made a commitment to process new orders faster.
- Enhanced our website to handle the additional traffic that caused our site to crash throughout the spring of last year.
- Put systems in place to reduce delays in communication with emails regarding updates on order status.
- Offered more online resources to address FAQs so you don’t have to wait on hold for long periods of time.
- Remained in contact with vendors, manufacturers, warehouses, partners, and distribution centers to give you accurate information.
- Displayed estimated lead times on our website for all products.
Rest assured, we have put these measures into place because we value your business and your family and want to go above and beyond for 2021!
Buying a Pool in 2021
Delays are still happening. We still can’t guarantee every single request will be fulfilled for 2021. In fact, some of you may not have a pool until 2022. When you can start swimming will depend on a couple of factors, such as:
- What kind of pool you want and what materials are needed to make it happen.
- Our availability or that of your local builder. Many pool installers are booked through the whole 2021 season already, making up for the losses felt in 2020. If you decide to install the pool yourself (above ground, i.e.), then these delays should not affect you.
The more flexible you can be with your demands and the materials needed, the higher chance you’ll have of fulfilling your pool ownership dreams in 2021.
Challenges for 2021
There are a couple things that will hamper your ability to add a pool to your yard this coming year: the increased demand for swimming pools from last year as well as the lack of raw materials. The result? Drastically-increased lead times.
In fact, current lead times for this winter have hit historic highs. To put this in perspective: Before the pandemic hit last March, the top two steel step manufacturers in the USA shipped inground pool steps in just under a week in the off season and just under three weeks during peak season. Now, both have off season lead times of between 12 and 16 weeks for those steps. These numbers will only climb as we head into spring 2021.
That’s just an example of materials being backlogged. This doesn’t even take into consideration the long wait times to even book an appointment with a local installer just to discuss putting in a pool. Builders are getting up to 100 requests each week, and logistically, as you can imagine, it will be nearly impossible to get to them all.
While Central Jersey Pools is taking proactive steps to reduce lead times, we can’t stress enough how important it is for our customers to start the planning process early. Don’t assume that just because it’s a new year, that everything will happen quickly when you want it to in 2021. So, yes, we are doing all we can to mitigate the effects of 2020 on our industry. However, 2021 isn’t going to be magically different. We are still learning as we go, and trying to do right by our customers every step of the way.
We may not be able to guarantee much this year, as many of our processes depend on others in a long chain of suppliers, but we do vow to be honest and upfront with you. We hope you can remain positive with the process as we work to get your family in the pool of your dreams as soon as possible. Trust us, we are working hard behind the scenes to make it happen.
From our team at Central Jersey Pools to you and your family: we wish you a happy, healthy new year!