The past few years have brought some very ‘unusual’ weather to the UK. Should you think about weather proofing your wet leisure business?
Climate change or just bad luck?
The world’s weather patterns have been changing for some time now, but admit it, this is not what we had in mind when we first heard the phrase, ‘global warming’.
The Met Office now officially describes Britain’s weather patterns over the last few years as ‘unusual’.
This Spring was the coldest in 50 years. December 2010 was the coldest for 100 years. In 2012, many parts of the country had 25% more rainfall than an average year with the north-east being particularly badly hit with 35% higher than average rain.
In fact, 2012 had the second wettest summer since records began. We haven’t seen a ‘proper’ British summer for 4 or 5 years now.
Some people blame the jet stream. There is a theory that a loss of ice in the Arctic has moved that flow of winds and allowed colder air on to British shores.
Ocean currents have changed their patterns over the last decade and these currents transport heat around the world. You might have heard people blaming ‘El Nino’ for cold winters and wet summers.
Whatever the causes, two things are clear.
The weather affects our business and there is nothing we can do about the weather.
Can we forecast the future?
The brief spell of good weather in May and June this year and the flurry of business that it prompted reminds us, if we need reminding, that at the moment the wet leisure industry, and particularly the pool industry, is solar powered.
When the sun comes out people open their pools and their wallets.
But what will the rest of the summer be like? What will the weather be doing this time next year? It’s easier to predict the winner of the Grand National then guess the correct answer to that one.
So what can be done?
Of course, there is a part of the wet leisure industry that can ignore the weather. There is steady growth in top-end indoor pools; hot tubs can be installed inside in a gym or home spa; saunas are predominantly indoor installations in the UK and steam rooms entirely so.
But traditionally, the wet leisure industry and its customers have seen the products we have to offer as part of outdoor living and the weather is going to have a big affect on that.
Save it for a rainy day.
From the point of view of an individual business, of course one obvious thing to do is to diversify, or rather extend your range into all aspects of the wet leisure industry.
The skills, the contacts and the business reputation necessary for building pools can easily be transferred to selling, servicing and installing spas and saunas as well.
In fact that is a route that many businesses have already gone down. The 2013 Wet Leisure Survey showed that 73% of the respondents that classified themselves as primarily a pool company, sold spas as well and 40% of them also sold and installed saunas.
Another popular and successful form of diversification is to look for business in the commercial sector as well as the domestic one.
This doesn’t necessarily mean tendering to build your local swimming baths, rather looking for business amongst the hotels, holiday camps, summer rentals and health resorts that are increasingly finding it necessary to offer a pool or spa in order to attract customers.
This sort of business is more likely to be done ‘out of season’ as the client will want their facilities to be up and running during the summer months. With any ‘seasonal business’, the key to success is to extend that season and this approach is designed to do just that.
But what can be done if we look at each individual sector of the wet leisure industry?
There are thousands of existing outdoor pools in the UK and, to their owners, they represent a big investment in time and money.
As those pools get older, there are more and more opportunities to retrofit some of today’s more modern products and technologies in order that the pool owners get more enjoyment from their pool for less effort and perhaps even lower running costs.
Pool enclosures are an obvious way to go in the light of questionable weather, but pool covers, MultiCyclone filters, renewable heat sources such as heat pumps or solar, and automatic dosing systems and pool cleaners all offer a similar advantage to the customer.
They make running a pool easier and that bit cheaper and that may well make them more likely to open their pool to take advantage of what good weather a summer brings.
Any true hot tub enthusiast will know the joys of soaking in their tub in the cold of a night or even on a rainy day but people new to the spa experience might need more persuading.
All too often, promotional material for spas and hot tubs shows the spa being enjoyed on a perfect, cloudless and sunny day. Simply showing the spa being used at night or under a dramatic and cloudy sky subtly tells people that a spa bathing session isn’t ‘weather dependant’.
Another approach would be to display your hot tubs with a spa umbrella over them or surrounded by screens or planting that implicitly shields them from the weather and makes a warm oasis to relax in.
Hot tub gazebos make an especially attractive feature and will certainly shield the tub from the vagaries of the weather.
Don’t assume that your customers are aware of all these things; let them know how they can enjoy their spa 365 days of the year, even in the UK.
Saunas and steam rooms rather ‘weather proof’ themselves. In the UK they are almost exclusively indoor installations.
The sauna market is growing steadily with improved design and ‘soft sauna’ making sauna bathing more attractive to women. The possibility of a sauna becoming a woman’s ‘must have’ bathroom beauty and wellbeing aid is not that remote.
Warm sunshine with scattered showers.
Which brings us back to the weather, and whether the UK’s summers get ‘back to normal’ or not there is no down-side to trying to weather proof your business.
An extended season and an extended product offering to the customers that you already have a relationship with can only do your business good.
Having a wider range of products, but still all within a category that people would associate with your business and have reason to trust your skills in can only help attract new customers.
Now, that would be sunshine on a rainy day, wouldn’t it?