Is this the future?

Forget your crystal ball, there are more tried and trusted ways to see what the future might have in store.

There are almost five and a half million businesses in the UK and over 80% of them employ less than 10 people. Interestingly, over 80% of the wet leisure businesses in the UK employ less than 10 people as well.

How do we know that? Because that is what last year’s Wet Leisure Survey told us.

This will be the fifth year of that survey and it really is starting to draw a more and more accurate picture of our industry. It shows us where we are each year and so it shows us where we have been and from that we can see which directions the industry is moving in.

Surveys are important to governments and business organisations of all shapes and sizes, not just because they keep a record of the past, but because they help us look into the future.

Do you follow the latest trends?

I’m not interested in a new hairstyle or a few fashion tips, but like all of us, I would like to know what areas of business might be growing over the next few years.

Those four and half million businesses that are the same size as us, do business in the same country and sell to many of the same people might provide a few insights, so I looked at some of the results of surveys that they took.

First off, it seems that niche businesses are a growing trend.

It’s often easier to market your business if you focus on a smaller group of customers and niche businesses take that to the extreme. Hipster cafes selling vegan sandwiches and specialist bicycle shops promoting hand crafted racing machines for example.

According to our Wet Leisure Survey, the majority of businesses in our industry are diversifying; they are selling pools, spas and saunas, they are offering service as well as installation.

But some niche areas are developing such as basement pools, bespoke spa and sauna rooms and, in particular, steam rooms and steam showers.

A healthy business.

The trend for health and wellbeing is growing and growing.

From calorie-counted foods to wearable tech that monitors your fitness and gym membership, survey after survey highlights health as one of the biggest drivers in the market.

That’s great. We are well placed to make the most of that trend but just how much is that influencing our industry and are we making the most of it? That’s one of the things that this year’s survey aims to find out.

An older business.

To give your business longevity and keep it growing you need to keep an eye on the elderly.

The baby boomers, that hugely influential group from the post-war baby boom are now mostly in their 60’s and entering their 70’s. They have money and they like to spend it. One of the things they like to spend it on most, is health.

Are they as important a group for us as they are for the rest of UK business? The results of this years survey should let us all know.

A mobile business.

More than 50% of people using the internet are doing so on a tablet or smartphone. That’s changing the way that people search and shop.

It’s a trend that will keep on growing. Those other surveys see it as the one thing that appears to be influencing and changing smaller UK businesses the most.

Mobile devices are popular because they are convenient. What could be more convenient than a customer ordering chemicals or a service engineer looking for parts using their smartphone?

People are controlling the heating in their homes using their smartphone. They will want to use it to turn on the sauna and heat up the spa as well.

As an industry, if we aren’t coming to terms with mobile, then we are standing still.