When talking about higher quality products and materials used for pool decking, Belgard is a name frequently dropped into the conversation. Belgard is widely recognized as the industry leaders in Pavers.
The manufacturer has been long regarded in the pool industry for their high quality products. You will see Belgard pavers surrounding the finest swimming pools in the country.
Belgard Pavers – A Popular Choice For Pool Decks
Patios and decks are intrinsically tied to inground swimming pools. Consequently, when contractors are planning a project – Belgard products often come into play. Their wide array of paver products are often used in the application of the pool deck area and retaining walls. With one of the largest and well supported product lines, they have become one of the most popular hardscaping choices with both professionals and retail consumers. Belgard’s professional products are available at more than 2,000 dealers throughout North America.
Swimming pool decking can be quite elaborate. Homeowners look for options that will enhance and beautify their backyard as well as provide a cohesive and flowing dynamic to the pool area. Belgard’s wide selection of high quality products, customer & retail focused initiatives and innovative technology have been what has helped differentiate them from competitors.
Their line of Standard, Porcelain, and Permeable pavers provide incredibly flexible installation options for angular, curved, entangled, floating, modular, raised, and sunken paver applications.
We had the opportunity to speak with Joe Raboine – Director of Belgard Residential Hardscapes recently. Prior to joining Belgard, Joe had over 15 years experience as a contractor. Raboine is a highly acclaimed expert in the field of hardscapes and outdoor living design.
Belgard’s line of paver products are widely used in the application of pool decks. Raboine brings a contractors perspective to the conversation when discussing the benefits of pavers over stamped concrete. We asked him to help explain the benefits to home owners who are considering pavers vs concrete as an option.
Benefits of Pavers Over Other Deck Options
Pavers are a tremendously popular decking option for consumers. There are literally thousands of different designs and materials to choose from. However, pricing for pavers vs concrete is often on par or slightly higher. Joe Raboine is responsible for many of Belgard’s initiatives. As a leading innovator in hardscapes, Raboine offers some insight as to why consumers might choose pavers over other decking applications such as stamped concrete. “Often, consumers opt for pavers because of the cost savings in potential maintenance” said Raboine.
“When performing pool repairs, builders often opt for pavers because they are much easier to remove and reinstall. Accessibility is important to contractors. Conversely, pool repairs with a concrete deck will often involve a jackhammer and costly repairs thereafter.”JOE RABOINE – DIRECtor OF BELgArD RESIDENTIAL HARDSCAPES
“Consumers also appreciate paver sealants which help make surfaces less slippery and tend to provide better contact surface grip.” Raboine explained. “They are also incredibly durable and have a much higher PSI strength in comparison to concrete decks which tend to chip and crack”.
Belgard Sets The Curve
You’ll find Belgard’s wide selection of products in most retail home improvement stores around America. Raboine explained how their continuous approach towards innovation is what has led Belgard towards establishing itself as a leader in hardscapes today. “We have released several exciting new products and design tools that will definitely help the pool industry. These include Belgard Design Studio, Rooms, and Artforms™.”
The recent release of Belgard Design Studio enables Belgard Authorized Contractors to provide customer access to 3D Virtual Walkthroughs of their paver products. With just a few site photos and a conceptual sketch of the outdoor living design, Belgard Design Studio can convert those ideas into a set of beautiful 3D designs. Their Authorized Contractor program allows for unlimited 3D renderings. This may prove especially useful to pool designers who often incorporate 3D designs in their sales presentations. It’s also incredibly beneficial for homeowners who want to visualize paver options and pool deck designs.
With the release of Belgard Rooms, consumers now have a linear path to plan their outdoor living project. The new online tool provides an innovative and interactive process that guides homeowners through the initial stages of design. This includes product selection and outdoor room layout. Already the program has been helping retailers leverage automation to cut down on time spent during the design phase. Raboine has been closely involved with these projects, both of which have enormous applications for backyard remodeling and pool deck design.
Belgard’s newest product Artforms™ is the hardscape industry’s first fully finished modular concrete panel system for outdoor living. The new system has applications for benches, barbecues, counters, fireplaces, planters, and privacy walls. This innovative new product allows the pre-formed concrete panels to be easily configured and affixed. Artforms™ provides simple, adjustable stainless steel hardware, allowing for multiple, personalized configurations.
How Belgard is Keeping Up With Demand
Belgard has had a deep association with the swimming pool industry for years. This past year saw unprecedented increase in sales for inground swimming pools. Many attributed the spike in demand to Covid-19, which consequently led to homeowners renewing an interest in improving their backyards.
Analysts predict the 2021 Spring and Summer season will be a repeat of last year. There is still alot of pent up demand from homeowners that were unable to build last year. Already costs have been increasing across the board on labor and materials. Major manufacturers and distributors have announced price increases already, citing supply chain issues as the number one source.
We asked Raboine how Belgard has dealt with keeping up with demand and how they are shifting operations to deal with the pandemic.
“We’ve added new facilities and have been working 24/7/365 trying to stay ahead of demand.”Joe Raboine – Director of belgard residential hardscapes
“We’re actively working with all of our dealers and distributors trying to forecast and predict order flow. This allows us to better plan. It also allows us to make sure that we have inventory available to better service our customers.” Raboine explained. The Residential Hardscapes division volume expects a spike. Consequently, they advise installers and retailers to get their orders in as quickly as possible. Ordering early will help them accommodate anticipated heavy order volume this season.
Featured Photo Credit: Alan Smith Pools – Gemstone Silver Pearl Radiant Fusion Finish with Belgard Lafit Grana Victorian pavers and Hancrete Cobblestone Light Sandblast – All other photos provided courtesy of Belgard.
PoolCorp Acquires Pinch A Penny
This month we’ve seen a blizzard of high-profile acquisitions. Recently, PoolCorp agreed to buy Porpoise Pool & Patio Inc. and its primary operating companies, Pinch A Penny Inc. and Sun Wholesale Supply Inc.
The entire specifics of the agreement were not disclosed.
With approximately 260 independently owned and run franchised stores in Florida, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, and Georgia, Pinch A Penny Inc. is a large franchisor of pool and outdoor living-related specialty retail stores in the United States. Sun Wholesale Supply Inc. sells mostly to Pinch A Penny franchisees and is a wholesale distributor of swimming pool and outdoor living products, as well as a specialty chemical packaging facility.
“I understand it will take some time for things to set in. I’m still processing it myself,” John Thomas, president and CEO of Porpoise Pool & Patio Inc., told associates in a memo. “Pinch A Penny has been an integral part of my life for 47 years. I’ve spent the past 30+ years of my adult life leading our company, so, I understand that processing this information will take some time,” he said.
Fred Thomas, a traveling salesman, originally started Pinch A Penny in 1974 when his son John was just eight years old. By 1995, John Thomas had been named president of Pinch A Penny, and he has overseen the company’s expansion.
“This acquisition secures a stronger future for our companies. And, it puts our business in alignment with an excellent strategic partner in our industry, one which can create greater success for everyone,” the memo from Thomas reads. “In short, it is the right time for Pinch A Penny to start a new chapter, and for my family to step aside and allow Pinch A Penny to become something more.”
Porpoise Pool & Patio’s well-established client base, distribution capabilities, chemical packaging operation, operational success, and the “growth-oriented Pinch A Penny brand” were all highlighted by PoolCorp. (Nasdaq/GSM: POOL) executives in making the transaction.
In a statement, PoolCorp. president and CEO Peter D. Aryan said, “The addition of the Pinch A Penny franchise network to PoolCorp.’s North American distribution business brings substantial growth and operating synergies for both existing independent retail customers and independent franchisees.”
According to The Tampa Bay Business Journal, Pinch A Penny had $387.3 million in revenue in 2020 and 2,775 workers. PoolCorp., based in Covington, is the largest wholesale distributor of swimming pool and garden items in the world. The company operates 410 sales centers across North America, Europe, and Australia, and distributes around 200,000 items to almost 120,000 wholesale customers.
Pool Corp has been concentrating on revenue growth. It is growing into new geographic areas, expanding in existing markets, and launching new product categories that are expected to increase its market share. In order to achieve this, the corporation has attempted to expand through various acquisitions. In February, September, and December 2020, the company completed three acquisitions: Master Tile Network, Northeastern Swimming Pool Distributors, and TWC Distributors. Jet Line Products, Inc. was bought in October 2020, giving the corporation three facilities in New Jersey, three in New York, two in Texas, and one in Florida. Pool Corp is also absorbing TWC Distributors, bringing the total number of sales locations in Florida to nine.
The company has launched ten new locations so far this year. In the third quarter of 2021, Pool Corp also conducted two strategic buyouts. In June and April of 2021, Vak Pak Builders Supply, Inc and Pool Source, LLC, respectively, were purchased. Acquisitions provided 5% to quarterly sales growth and 7% to year-to-date performance in the third quarter.
Fiberglass Resin Shortage Affecting Manufacturers
The global covid-19 pandemic brought about many changes in the pool industry. Currently, there is shortage of many essential parts and supplies for swimming pools. More aspiring pool owners are getting disappointed by the day. Manufacturers have enormous backlogs of pending orders. But why has their been such dramatic and sudden slow-downs of inground pool construction during the height of the season? One of leading causes among fiberglass builders this season has been slow delivery of shells which has a direct correlation to ongoing resin shortages.
Understanding the fiberglass resin shortage at an in-depth level
As mentioned earlier, there has been a delay in pool construction due to a shortage of fiberglass resin material. As a result, the prices of liquid vinyl ester resin and fiberglass have significantly gone up. Subsequently, many fiberglass manufacturers are turning down shell orders amid the high demand for fiberglass pools nationwide and a lack of raw materials to facilitate orders.
Pool Magazine received word from numerous builders that they had been notified by Latham that shell deliveries would be delayed up to 8 weeks because of ongoing shortages. We reached out to America’s largest manufacturer of fiberglass inground pools to see how they are handling the ongoing resin shortage.
“Latham’s manufacturing facilities remain open and operational.” said Crist Leigh Wunsch, spokesperson for Latham, “Homeowner interest in our products is stronger than ever, and our teams are working hard to meet the increased demand. We are facing intermittent raw material shortages, along with the rest of our industry, which has resulted in some temporary manufacturing inefficiencies at our facilities.”
“We have been leveraging our strong relationships with our suppliers to navigate this issue,” continued Wunsch, “and we have looking at alternative resin sources to continue to diversify our supply chain. Despite this, Latham continues to deliver solid growth. The strong underlying secular trends of our industry remain intact, and we feel well positioned to continue to meet growing consumer demand for pools.”
Manufacturers Everywhere Are Feeling The Pinch
Kent Wooldridge, president of the United Marine Manufacturers Association, says, “Indisputably, it is extremely painful to turn down orders from loyal clients. Telling pool owners that they have to halt their businesses just because you cannot supply them with the required raw materials is hard. Even worse, you cannot refer them to another person who can offer them the appropriate raw materials. In addition, those who have these materials sell them at crazy prices.”
“The majority of suppliers are overburdened by the fiberglass shortage. The winter storms that damaged the chemical plants producing resin were therefore a big disaster.”president of board manufacturer Aipa Surf Co, DUKE AIPA
Have raised import tariffs made the shortage situation worse?
Usually, the United States is responsible for producing only a tiny fraction of fiberglass cloth. The country mainly relies on affordable fiberglass supplies from China. However, since Trump’s administration, there have been obstacles preventing the smooth import process. In particular, since 2018, a 25% import tariff was placed on fiberglass cloth and resin. This discouraged most manufacturers from importing fiberglass. On the flip side, Chinese manufacturers raised their export prices.
In 2020, the coronavirus outbreak made the supply chain worse due to travel restrictions. The lockdown also forced Chinese chemical plants to shut down. At the same time, there was increased demand for pool construction services since most homeowners were looking for ways to upgrade their backyards.
The effect of natural calamities on fiberglass resin shortage
This year, the winter storm in Texas disoriented a broad spectrum of activities in the pool industry. The freezing weather conditions forced the chemical manufacturing plants in Houston to shut down. Moreover, the storm forced Hexion Inc and Olin Corp., the biggest epoxy producers, to stop operating.
Manufacturers report that once they finally get a truckload of resin, it doesn’t stick around very long. It’s already earmarked for a back-order. In fact, in most instances, all the resin coming in has already been pre-sold. This has been the situation for the past few months.
Are manufacturers affected?
Kirk Sullivan, a Florida pool builder, had to refund 250 orders due to the fiberglass resin shortage. Sullivan says that he received very few supplies this year during the summer. Therefore, his company has been unable to continue taking new pool construction orders. Fortunately, all his staff members are still at work, hoping for things to get better.
Regional manager, Todd Prestage, says, “Before, it used to take approximately six weeks to get a Surf Hardware International Board. Now, it takes six months.”
Several fiberglass manufacturers have tried solving this issue by importing a more significant percentage of raw materials from Asian countries that don’t incorporate high import tariffs. But they still find themselves raising their prices due to all the labor and shipping costs involved. Consumers, on the flip side, have no other choice but to pay more.
The bottom line
Other than taking longer to reach consumers, prices for resin have skyrocketed. Consequently, very few pool companies are finding it easy to adjust. One Latham Grand Dealer we spoke to said, “The resin shortage is making it more difficult for smaller companies like ours to get shells and obviously it’s been costing us all sales. The big guys are fortunate since they have guaranteed delivery based on their order flow”
One thing is for absolute certain, as the summer begins to wind down, this industry certainly has it’s work cut out toward improving the supply chain issues that have hindered so many this pool season.
Latham is Going Public
Latham announced its intentions to go public. Will begin trading under “SWIM” stock symbol…
A new pool corporation will be listed on the stock exchange very soon and it’s a name we all know well. Latham – The Pool Company™, filed a notice with the Securities and Exchange Commission announcing its intention to sell its common stock in an initial public offering.
Under the ticker symbol SWIM, the Latham Group has applied to list its stock on the Nasdaq Global Select Market. Complete details about the offering and it’s terms are not yet known at this time.
The news of Latham’s intention to go public comes a month after Hayward, one of the “Big 3” manufacturers, made a similar announcement.
Latham, The Pool Company™, as it is now known was formerly known as Latham Pool Products.
Latham’s private equity partners, Pamplona Capital Management and Wynnchurch Capital, will hold more than 50% of the voting power of the company’s outstanding common stock, rendering the Latham Group a controlled company excluded from some corporate governance provisions.
Latham outlined a strategy to increase the overall market share of fiberglass among inground pools, change how customers access the company’s products, improve distribution capabilities across the United States, and expand internationally while discussing the company’s strengths and benefits.
Latham Moves Into Lead Generation
With a new emphasis on direct digital and social-media marketing, backed by a demand-aggregation platform, Latham has made serious inroads to market directly to consumers. Consequently, this has enabled them to feed more pool leads to their dealer base. According to Latham, the company delivered over 45,000 customer leads to its dealer base in 2020, the first year the plan was fully implemented. According to the group, this represents a 210% increase from 2019.
The company also referenced it’s size, claiming that its network of nine fiberglass pool factories and distribution centers allows it to supply fiberglass pools to 95 percent of the US population within just 48 hours.
Latham has increased its market share in the fiberglass pool industry over time by purchasing a number of existing manufacturers. Three recent transactions were mentioned in their IPO application. Latham believes this will help it position itself well in the future.
Recent Latham Acquisitions
The acquisition of Narellan, an Australian fiberglass pool manufacturer with operations in Canada and New Zealand, in 2019 bolstered the company’s foreign presence. According to Latham, foreign markets account for 19% of its revenue, with Canada, Australia, and New Zealand having the most representation. According to Latham, the company is still on the lookout for emerging markets.
At the very least, the Narellan acquisition is expected to help Latham extend its footprint in North America by increasing fiberglass penetration. Narellan, as Australia’s largest manufacturer of fiberglass pools, played a key role in the increased acceptance of fiberglass over the last two decades in Australia, where the segment now accounts for 70% of the pool industry, according to Latham.
“Leveraging insights gained from Narellan, we are investing to build the tools required to drive higher fiberglass penetration in the North American market,” Latham said.
It also mentioned that the acquisition of vinyl-liner and safety-cover manufacturer GLI in October 2020 has expanded its offerings in those categories.
In October, the company entered into a long-term strategic relationship with Premier Pools & Spas, acquiring a 28 percent equity stake in the pool-construction franchise. The company said, “The purpose of this investment in Premier Pools & Spas is to help expand our sales and distribution channels,”
In the future, it intends to form more strategic alliances with dealerships. “We believe these exclusive relationships will continue to enable us to increase market share at the expense of the fragmented and regional universe of competitors,” Latham said.
In North America, Australia, and New Zealand, Latham claims to be the largest builder, manufacturer, and marketer of in-ground residential swimming pools. It claims to have 32 locations, hiring over 2,000 people, and selling more than 8,700 fiberglass pools in the United States in 2020.
Although “net income does not adhere to this trend.” said Latham, 2020 represented the 11th consecutive year of net sales growth and adjusted EBITDA margin expansion. According to the group, net revenues were $403.4 million in 2020 and net income was $16.0 million.
Last year, vinyl liners accounted for 20% of Latham’s sales, covers for 21%, and fiberglass and vinyl-lined pools for the remaining 80%. The remaining 59%, according to the company, came from fiberglass units.
Featured Photo Credit: Albany Business Review
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