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Hot Tub Delay

How COVID has Affected the Hot Tub Industry

The year 2020 was an unprecedented one for hot tubs. The pandemic caused a huge demand by consumers, leading to empty inventories right when the industry faced its largest manufacturing delay in more than 20 years. The result was that people purchasing or looking to buy hot tubs found themselves on wait lists that extended for months — and 2021 looks like it will be more of the same.

“If someone orders a pool or hot tub today, they may not see the final product until 2022,” according to the Pool and Hot Tub Alliance (PHTA) in its article, “Industry Trends to Expect in 2021.” “The high demand from 2020 that’s continuing into 2021 is extending lead times across the industry, from manufacturers and retailers to builders and service technicians.”

Increase in Demand

Just when the hot tub industry was starting to see a decline in sales in March 2020, the coronavirus pandemic and worldwide shutdowns of businesses sparked a reversal of industry fortune. Stay-at-home requirements left people feeling stressed and claustrophobic: with their homes now also becoming workplaces, schools, and vacation spots. This lifestyle reevaluation caused people to buy hot tubs for relaxation, stress relief, and even medical pain relief. A vacation became time outside on the deck in a hot tub.

“I don’t think anybody could have guessed that [the pandemic] would have led to record demand across the hot tub category,” Steve Stigers, chair of the International Hot Tub Association (IHTA), told the PHTA. He attributes the demand in hot tubs to multiple factors, including people spending a majority of their time at home, people spending their disposable income on at-home improvements, and people looking for a way to improve their wellness without leaving the house.

Hot tub and pool sales nationally are up about 25% on average, according to the Pool & Hot Tub Alliance.

While this sounds like a great number for the industry, the COVID pandemic caused not only a high demand for hot tubs, but manufacturing delays due to supply chain issues, a shrinking labor pool, and business shutdowns of four to eight weeks at the start of the pandemic (depending on individual state government mandates). Once manufacturers re-opened, they faced a backlog of unfilled, existing orders compounded by a tidal wave of new orders as families sought to invest in at-home entertainment. Even after reopening, manufacturers then had to contend with labor shortages, social distancing requirements in the workplace, supply shortages, increased prices and transportation costs — all of which has led to production delays.

Buyer Beware

If you are in the market for a hot tub, take your time, do your research, and be aware that the global manufacturing delay is also causing rush jobs from unreliable manufacturers. Emerging brands and new “solutions” to the manufacturing delay may just be opportunists looking to make a quick buck while they saddle consumers with unending repair costs on low-end hot tubs.

Yardsharing.org posted an article in late 2020 on “Hot Tub Brands to Avoid,” which detailed criteria for the worst hot tub brands and how to avoid making a bad decision with your purchase. In general, they said, find a hot tub with high-quality materials, an energy-efficient design, and all of the additional features you want.

Things to keep in mind include:

  • If a hot tub does not have a warranty or a service agreement for after your purchase, walk away.
  • Check customer reviews from multiple websites and see what people in various areas say about the product, especially whether it is high quality or in constant need of repairs.
  • Buying from a local dealer typically assures you of quick assistance with troubleshooting and maintenance issues, while buying online or from a big-box retailer may prove more impersonal and more difficult to get the help you need.

Hot Tub Star, a non-profit organization of hot tub industry manufacturers, retailers and service professionals, suggests:

  • Check out the country of origin and be certain that you feel comfortable that you can contact the manufacturer direct if necessary.
  • Make certain that the product you choose is suited to your climate.
  • Check out the warranty. Make sure your supplier and their manufacturer is established long enough so you feel comfortable they will be in business for years to come.

Looking Ahead

A typical hot tub order takes 4-8 weeks for production from the time the order is placed; the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, however, has caused serious backlogs of six months or more, according to huttubinsider.com. PDC Spas, the oldest hot tub manufacturer in the country, was predicting a 58-to-64-week delay on all new orders as of February 1, 2021.

According to Bullfrog International, the parent company of the Bullfrog Spas hot tub brand and one of the world’s major designers and manufacturers in luxury hot tubs, demand for their products has never been higher while material supply has never been more challenging. Jerry Pasley, CEO Bullfrog Spas, wrote in a letter to customers, “Our world and company have faced challenges unlike any we’ve seen. For us those have included regional shutdowns, unprecedented demand as people refocused on their home lives, as well as community-wide and private pain over health challenges and loss. … To be sure, these supply challenges create uncertain near-term conditions; however, we do not expect such conditions to persist on a long-term basis.”

So don’t worry, if you want to buy a hot tub or have an order pending, while it may take some time to get your new hot tub, it will be worth the wait.

“Patience is the name of the game,” Megan Kendrick, publisher of the trade magazine SpaRetailer, told Pool Spa Forum late last year. “If you have a spot in line, you better hold on to it.”