Today, the pool and spa industry in the United States continues to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic burden posed by the lockdown. The crisis has hit the pool and spa companies across various geographical regions in different ways. The epidemic has hardest hit these companies, although those in profoundly affected areas are more likely to encounter huge losses than those in less affected areas. Conversely, the service sector is somewhat secure compared to the retail industry; organizations capable of selling their services or products online are better off compared to companies that require human contact. Building contracts, however, seem to continue as planned. In the long run, there is a high probability that all industries will be at risk; however, these ramifications currently remain unknown.
Like most companies, the goals for pools and spa businesses have been redefined. For survival during this global pandemic, they sought to take care of service and construction. This alleviates any adverse effects of retail, while maintaining resourceful employees and implementing practical financial management skills. All Seasons Pools and Spas, in Chicago, came up with an action plan on how to deal with this crisis in the industry. Dan Lenz, the company’s vice president, informed AQUA of the scheme on the 19th of March, 2020. He said,” After almost four hours of discussion, we resolved to create a strategic plan and put it to action.
Considering our retail store is no longer in function, we opted to send a large percentage of our employees working in the retail sector home, except the manager and myself.” He notes that the crisis significantly affected their chemical sales even though most of the purchases are online. “Normally, the company receives over $100,000 chemical sales, but this has tremendously dropped this year due to the pandemic.” Additionally, we don’t have any traffic, so our retail store is closed due to restricted movement. Nonetheless, if we have a willing customer, we are determined to satisfy their needs. mommabe.com
Battling covid, hand-to-hand
Unfortunately, commercial sanitizers are sold out in most cities, including Chicago. Quite the contrary, pool and spa companies have their unlimited supply of commercial sanitizers. I passed by Loews and purchased several chemical-resistant spray bottles and added a mixture of chlorine and water in the bottle. The combination serves as a strong disinfectant like Lysol, we, therefore, use it to disinfect all items in our store. We sanitize everything in our store, the washrooms, all rooms, furniture, office equipment, electronic equipment, and our gadgets. Besides, we ensure our employees maintain distance; there are two employees in the service and construction department, unlike our usual five, who sit two meters away from each other.
During a typical working day, our service and construction team report early in the morning to complete their paperwork, submitting the work before the day ends. We have implemented various measures to prevent the spread of the disease within work premises. Consequently, we transferred the team’s paperwork to the storehouse and ensured the area is adequately disinfected to avoid transmission.
Service and construction holding up
We are almost at the end of the spring opening season and currently have our crew of technicians on board. Regularly, at this time of the year, we bring in a lot of people using our customer service skills before our sales begin to peak. Sadly, this is not happening now because everything seems unpredictable. Before the crisis, we did not worry about whoever was in the field and their respective interactions. It’s all different now; we have to keep records of everyone in the area to prevent any transmission of the virus and deal effectively with whoever is infected. Fortunately, even with the separation of different teams, everyone is still working efficiently, and we feel lucky to have such an understanding, reliable, and responsible personnel that foster our expansion as a company.
Additionally, our sales team is working from home using their computers. We sent our other employees’ home until the end of next week before we strategize on the way forward; we resolved to be paying them for 30 hours. After proper evaluation, we realized we have to be careful about how we spend our finances because our revenues are reducing by the day. Furthermore, we are unsure of what the future holds for us. It is unfortunate how this present situation is amending our employment contracts and increasing the state of unemployment. The government is talking about providing relief for businesses, but as of now, nothing is guaranteed. Despite this, we are doing our best to encourage a positive cash flow by securing our spring openings and continue with online selling and deliveries.
Ultimately, no one saw this coming, so we have to keep going no matter the situation. We are still responsible for taking care of our pools and ensuring they remain safe for human use. Honestly, we desire for pools to be reopened so that all our customers who are at home find something to keep their minds busy.
BioLab Plant Reopening Will Impact Chlorine Prices for 2023
The news of BioLab’s plant burning to the ground during Hurricane Laura in 2020 had a ripple effect on chlorine prices that has lasted for the past two years. We first reported that BioLab was rebuilding the plant back in July of 2021. A recent announcement that construction is completed and in time for summer production has pool industry analysts optimistic. “We are delighted to reopen our BioLab facility in time to support the 2023 pool season,” said Michael Sload, CEO of KIK Consumer Products.
BioLab is the nation’s second-largest manufacturer of dry chlorine products. An announcement that the Westlake, Louisiana facility is fully operational means that one of the driving factors for the initial spike we saw on the price of chlorine has been removed. Prices for dry chlorine products soared in 2021 due to concerns about shortages and remained high through the summer of 2022.
Understanding The Correlation Between BioLab & Price Increases
The conditions for a sudden surge in the price for chlorine stemmed partly from the fact that BioLab was out of commission. The main factor that was driving prices to explode during the past two years was largely due to the pandemic in general.
A large percentage of the population was quarantined, which meant more people than ever before, were at home and using their swimming pool. This put a much higher glut on demand than anticipated. With the pandemic shutting many plants down, and logistical delays plaguing distributors throughout most of 2021, these conditions as well as rising inflation in 2022 kept prices high through the summer.
The reopening of the BioLab facility will certainly impact the supply chain in a positive way. “BioLab will be actively supplying the pool market for the 2023 season which should provide some relief,” said plant manager Donald Brunette.
Prices are predicted to begin dropping a bit in light of that fact but will certainly not sink lower than they were prior to the pandemic. As the population starts to adjust to a post-Covid world, the surge we saw for swimming pools has already begun to recalibrate to pre-pandemic levels. The only remaining catalyst for keeping chlorine prices from truly resetting back to 2020 is the cumulative rate of inflation is roughly 14.7% higher than in 2020.
While this should certainly factor into the equation, most experts agree that with this news, the chlorine shortage is finally over and a bucket of chlorine tablets should cost substantially less next summer than it has in previous years. This comes as welcome news for both consumers and pool professionals.
Ultimate Water Taps Jeff Jones for Sales of Chlorine Genie
Ultimate Water, whose flagship product is the Chlorine Genie, is pleased to announce the addition of industry veteran Jeff Jones as the new Regional Sales Manager and Buying Group Liaison for the company’s residential and commercial divisions. Based out of Texas, Jones has been in the swimming pool industry for over 40 years spanning a broad range of roles including the VP of Sales for DEL Ozone, National Sales Manager for Letro Products, as well as work in construction management and sales for Blue Haven and Riverbend Pools. Most recently Jones managed buying group sales for Florida Water Products.
“We are very pleased to have Jeff join our team,” says Thomas Vessiere, National Sales Director for Ultimate Water. “Jeff brings deep experience, industry knowledge, and strong relationships that will be especially helpful as the demand for the Chlorine Genie grows exponentially in our industry.”
Having sold and designed pool water sanitation systems for many years, Jones is very enthusiastic about being a part of the growing success of the Chlorine Genie. “The design and functionality of the Chlorine Genie makes it an ideal product for our industry and is especially welcome right now as builders, retailers and service professionals grapple with the most efficient way to continuously produce chlorine safely, cost effectively and immediately for their customers,” explains Jones.
Jones will be at the AQUALive Show booth # 416 and can be reached directly at [email protected] or by calling 214-415-2510.
More information about the Chlorine Genie can be found at:
San Diego, CA
A Borates Shortage is Looming on The Horizon
One of the specialty chemicals being talked about a lot in light of the chlorine shortages and rising prices are borates. As strong proponents of borates, it troubles us to say that our go-to sanitzer supplement may soon be facing the same shortages and rising costs that we’ve been seeing on the trichlor side.
What The Boron Shortage Means For The Pool Industry
If you’re in the pool business you already know, borates are becoming increasingly difficult to find. What inventory is available is vastly more expensive than in previous years. We’re already knee-deep into the dog days of summer and prices for chlorine have skyrocketed well past analysts’ projections.
A lot of pool service professionals have been turning to borates as the savior during this time of inflation and rising prices. Many technicians already use borates as a buffer against upwards shifting pH. When your pH level rises above what is deemed “normal” (about 7.8), using borates achieves optimum results.
Why Pool Professionals Are Turning To Borates
Bacteria can thrive in water with a high pH level. When this happens it makes chlorine less effective. Pool professionals use borates to alleviate the issue, because it works to keep pH from drifting upward. In addition, there are other positive aspects to using borates in your pool. For one, it keeps the pool clear of algae and calcium scaling. Pool equipment repair specialists will be the first ones to recommend borates. When it comes to maintaining ideal water chemistry for your pool equipment, borates does an amazing job.
For the past few years, the adoption of borates by pool pros has steadily increased season after season. The concern now is that we may have hit maximum capacity as demand has increased well beyond available inventory.
Dwindling Boron Supplies Driving Prices Higher
The global boron market shortage is driving prices higher this season. For those who’ve been thinking of switching to using borates, this definitely is something to consider. When it comes to getting trichlor at affordable rates, it already feels that pool pros are a lower priority as far as it goes to maintaining pricing structures. Now, it appears the same thing has begun happening with borates.
Although borates and boric acid are near synonymous with pools, the swimming pool industry itself is actually a lower priority in terms of its consumption of boron. The industrial glass industry is the largest consumer of boron, roughly 48%, followed by the ceramics industry (15%) and agricultural industry (15%); the cleaning industry of which the pool industry represents a fraction consumes roughly 2% of the world’s boron.
You’ll find boron in everything from industrial fertilizers to high-end ceramics and solar panels. Boron also has medical applications which improve wound healing and boosts the body’s usage of estrogen, testosterone, and vitamin D. It improves magnesium absorption, reduces inflammation, increases antioxidants, and boosts brain electrical activity in both cognitive performance as well as short-term memory.
What is absolutely certain is that we (the pool industry) didn’t cause a borates shortage. Clearly, demand is higher in these other industries which are causing prices to surge. Right now the boron supply chain is very weak. Over 60% of the material comes from mines located in Turkey which is the top producer, followed by Russia, South America and the United States.
For the time being, production is gradually declining. As existing boron reserves deplete, we’re seeing demand far exceed supplies, resulting in higher prices such as $1,250 per ton, far exceeding analysts’ predictions for $739 per ton.
While the demand in the U.S. by pool professionals may be high, the top consumer of boron is China, followed by India and Japan. Boron is produced domestically only in the State of California and it appears very little of it is earmarked towards maintaining supply chains for borates.
The story isn’t all doom and gloom for pool professionals who want to switch to borates. Fortunately, folks like Natural Chemistry, Brenntag, and others are still intent on keeping inventory on the shelves so you should still be able to find their products through distribution. If they don’t have borates available, demand that they replenish their stock. This may be the only way to guarantee the pool industry remains a priority at all.
Listen to our entire discussion on the Talking Pools podcast.
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