Recession Could Mean Less Discretionary Dollars For Pool Industry
Pool industry analysts are concerned that a recession could mean less discretionary dollars spent in the backyard over the next few years. In June, inflation increased to 9.1%, the highest it’s been since 1981. Today, the dollar is at a near 1:1 ratio with the euro. The last time there was a parity between the two currencies was 20 years ago. With questions of a looming recession, over 70% of Americans think we may already be in the middle of one.
If a Recession is Here, Has The Pop Finally Arrived?
The majority of financial analysts are convinced we already are headed for a downturn, according to Fortune. Consequently, many consumers have already begun to cut back on their discretionary spending, particularly for home improvement projects.
Consumers Appear To Be Cutting Back On Their Spending
A recent poll conducted by CreditCards.com showed that 47% of consumers surveyed said they don’t plan to increase their discretionary spending. Furthermore, Forbes forecasted that 7 in 10 people feel less confident making a major purchase than just 6 months ago. These numbers indicate confidence has sunk to pre-Covid levels and it appears that consumers have begun to curtail making larger discretionary purchases.
A Time of Belt Tightening in the Face of Rising Inflation
Gas prices surged to well above $5.00 a gallon throughout many areas of the U.S. on the heels of the situation in Ukraine. Prices have only now slowly begun to come back down. As of today’s writing, the national average for a gallon of gasoline stands at $4.57. Reportedly 26% of consumers have begun to belt tighten during conditions where they’re spending more at the pump as well as at the grocery store.
These cost-cutting measures to combat rising inflation are what we’ve seen occurring throughout the U.S. and indicative of what transpired in the years leading up to the Great Recession. Over 70% of economists surveyed by the Financial Times said they expect a recession to occur by the end of 2023.
While many organizations within the pool industry have reported record-breaking sales over the last two years, several quarters of decline have already begun to erode gains made during the pandemic. Rising costs of materials and a rapidly shifting consumer environment are predicted to impact sales through the end of ’22 and well into ’23.
Pool Industry Market Conditions Begin to Cool Demand
During the height of the pandemic, the industry experienced an explosion in terms of demand for new pool construction. Consumer interest in improving the backyard was at an all-time high as many were quarantining in their homes, avoiding travel, and choosing to reinvest in their outdoor living environment. Building a swimming pool became a top priority for many homeowners.
The term “unprecedented demand“ suddenly became a buzzword on everyone’s lips during the pandemic. Builder and consumer confidence was suddenly at an all-time high. Those who truly know this industry can tell you that change happens at near glacial speeds during the normal run of things. To see a spike in demand the types of which we experienced was indeed unprecedented.
The facts are that inevitably what goes up, must come down. Nothing could be more true than how pool companies performed in the face of an economic downturn like the one that we saw during the Great Recession. The fact is that if things continue their current course we could very well experience an “unprecedented contraction” in the pool industry.
Pool Industry Stocks Plunge as Recession Looms
Inevitably, some of the largest firms have been the first to feel the changing economic climate. This is indicative by how stocks are performing across the board throughout the pool industry.
Presently, the Nasdaq is down roughly 29% YTD and the S&P 500, which had its worst first half since 1970, is off by roughly 19.5%. Consequently, it appears that a reversal of fortune for some of the largest pool companies has also been felt simultaneously. Since the start of 2022, the Big 3 are down an average of -43.21%.
Pool Construction Intrinsically Tied To New Home Construction
It is a fact that the pool construction industry is directly tied to new home construction. Given that a large portion of consumers who purchased a swimming pool over the past three years was based on pent-up demand in the market, new construction is needed to keep pace.
A Cooling Market & Rising Rates
As the market begins to cool, the trajectory for new sales takes on a different path that has led many analysts to reset expectations. Additional analysis showed during the month of May, the market for new home construction declined by 14%.
Higher prices, labor problems, and shortages of equipment and materials mean that building a home or for that fact, a swimming pool has ultimately become more expensive and for some is becoming out of reach.
Recession Conditions in a Housing Crisis
The ongoing housing crisis in our country means that in states like California where the median home price is now $797,000; a minimum annual income of $158,000 is required to qualify. The Fed’s plan to increase mortgage rates means that it will become even tougher to buy a home. This slowdown indicates that the housing supply will remain strained, leaving buyers under historic pressure.
Consumer confidence declined for the sixth month in a row in June, according to the National Association of Home Builders, a clear sign that the market is cooling down. Consequently, both builders and consumers are taking a “wait & see” outlook as rising mortgage rates continue to soften demand.
Texas-Shaped Pool a Must When Visiting Houston
Pool Magazine was recently in Houston for the annual Southwest Pool & Spa Show. Absolutely no visit to Houston is complete without checking out the Texas-shaped pool at Altitude Rooftop & Pool located on the 6th floor at the Marriott Marquis in downtown Houston.
The Southwest Pool & Spa Show, a premier event for pool and spa professionals, was hosted this year at the George Brown Convention Center. The convention center is conveniently connected to the Marriott Marquis which made deciding to visit a no-brainer for us and a must-visit destination for plenty of attendees and exhibitors at the show.
We took advantage of the opportunity to check out the one-of-a-kind pool experience. During our visit, we saw a number of pool pros taking time out before and after the show to visit the pool. This only reinforced its importance to the industry and its impact on the pool design and construction world.
Texas Shaped Pool is an Iconic Pool Destination
Undeniably, the standout feature of the Altitude Rooftop & Pool at the Marriott Marquis Houston is its distinctly shaped pool, offering guests a unique and unforgettable recreational experience. The crowning jewel is the Texas-shaped lazy river, accented by a beautiful infinity pool, and large spa.
The $335 million dollar project was designed by Morris Architects and built by Rida Development and Houston First. The iconic lazy river features walls and a stainless steel spa that were custom-made by manufacturer Natare which designs vessels and equipment for competition, fitness, leisure, and aquatic recreation. Using over 100 tons of stainless steel, the materials were manufactured in their state-of-the-art facility located in Indianapolis, IN.
The vinyl liner Texas-shaped pool is truly a fun and entertaining spectacle that gives swimmers a floating tour around the state. Approaching the western side of the Texas-shaped pool swimmers are treated to a clear, acrylic wall overlooking the roof’s edge before water jets shoot them southeast along the path of the Rio Grande. In the center of the lazy river, children can play in the water features of a circular splash pad, 20 feet in diameter. The innovative stainless steel “bowl” of the splash pad is lined with stone pavers, through which water drains back to the filtration system.
Along the edge of the rooftop is an impressive 77-foot long infinity pool, where swimmers can relax and look out over the Houston skyline and Discovery Green below. The infinity pool is accompanied by a large spa, composed of two large, overlapping rectangular sections, each one about 8 feet by 10 feet.
The rooftop is decked out with thousands of winter lights and interactive displays for the duration of the winter season as part of the “Texas Winter Lights” exhibit. The temperature of the heated lazy river is a pleasant 80 degrees. During the spring, each Friday night is dedicated to watching movies on the rooftop terrace.
With an emphasis on green technology, the Altitude Rooftop & Pool is powered by energy-efficient pumps and filters, reducing its carbon footprint and making it a more sustainable option for guests who care about the environment. In addition to its exceptional design and construction, High Dive rooftop bar and restaurant offers guests the perfect place to enjoy a drink or snack while taking in the stunning views.
The Marriott Marquis Houston opened in the spring of 2016, adding over 1,800 construction jobs and 700 permanent jobs to Houston’s hospitality industry. Whether you’re a local or just passing through, the Altitude Rooftop & Pool is a must-visit destination in Houston, offering a one-of-a-kind pool experience.
Take a Tour of This Iconic Texas Shaped Pool
Million Dollar Pool Design Challenge Winner – Rance Schindler
Pool Magazine takes a deep dive into the Million Dollar Pool Design Challenge winning entry by Rance Schindler.
Pool Magazine is proud to have been one of the sponsors of this 2022’s Million Dollar Pool Design Challenge at the PSP Deck Expo in Las Vegas. The winning design was done by up-and-coming designer Rance Schindler who blew away the judges with his $10,000 winning entry, courtesy of Riverflow Pumps by Current Systems.
The annual competition is the brainchild of renowned designers Mike Farley and Reid Schindler, and it seeks to promote cutting-edge ideas for backyards by doing away with financial restraints. Designers are invited to enter the competition and create the ultimate outdoor oasis for hypothetical clients on a million-dollar budget.
Entrants in the 2022 competition were tasked with creating an outdoor living oasis for a husband-and-wife pair of lawyers in Chicago, Illinois. Designing the ultimate backyard for these dream clients meant planning a seasonal space that would prioritize health, wellness, and self-care.
Some prerequisites for submissions were that the design should incorporate a few wish list items:
- Home has a lower terrace area, front approach, and rooftop terrace.
- Seasonal usage of space, designer should consider wind, sun direction, shade, and the Chicago climate.
- Clients goal for the space is a space to unwind.
Aesthetics & View
- Keep the view open if possible, but they also want privacy.
- Preferred to have natual elements, but they love structured design.
Pool & Spa
- The pool is for health, wellness, and self care.
- They are looking for a complete setting, not just a swimming pool.
- A hot tub and cold plunge are needed, possibly a sauna.
Elements to Include
- A fire element to gather around.
- Cool lighting.
- The use of a Riverflow Pumps by Current Systems product (lazy river or swim jet system).
- A real or synthetic lawn space.
- The use of Ledge Lounger furniture.
- An outdoor kitchen.
- The couple will entertain/host six to 12 guests maximum.
- The wife teaches yoga and barre as a hobby, and wants a space to exercise and cool off.
A large number of entrants tried out for the Million Dollar Pool Design Challenge, but only a select few were invited to Las Vegas to show off their skills. PoolHaus’s Brent Dutton, Old State Landscape’s Whitney Morris and Stephanie Carnahan, Complete Exterior Solutions’ Rance Schindler, Randy Angell Designs’ Brad Holley, and AquaTerra Outdoors’ Minsung Kim, Karishma Karki, Paola Hidalgo, and Sameepa Modi were also finalists.
Entries were evaluated by an expert panel of judges based on the following factors:
1. Aesthetic Quality – Is the concept’s form pleasant to look at?
2. Differentiation – Is the concept “fresh” & unique?
3. Functionality -Does the concept meet the criteria of the families needs? Does it consider all elements site analysis?
4. Realization Possibility – Is the concept buildable if the client decided to move forward with construction? ie. topographically, features, function
Let’s take a look at this year’s winning design by Rance Schindler of Complete Exterior Solutions. One of the prerequisites of the client was shade.
This design answers that request with a large tree that shades the outdoor living space and becomes a central focal point of the backyard.
The design plan also features a lovely rooftop dining and conversation area as well as an outdoor kitchen.
A gorgeous glass deck overhangs the entire outdoor living space and looks down on a smartly appointed pool, fire pit, and lounging area below.
Think you’ve got what it takes to enter next year’s Million Dollar Pool Design Challenge? Learn more about this contest and how to enter.
Art In The Pool With Ania Amador
These days, artists find inspiration working in a variety of different mediums. Take a stroll around town and you’re liable to stumble across art in the strangest of places. Case in point, the subject of today’s discussion. Ania Amador is an artist who has rapidly been building a following and has gone viral with her surrealistic swimming pool murals.
To appreciate her art does involve stepping out of your comfort zone. No, you won’t need a ticket to a gallery or museum. To view this art up close and personal, you’ll have to strap on your bathing suit or put on a pair of swim trunks.
Using the Swimming Pool as an Art Canvas
A trained commercial artist, Amador gave us some insight as to how she first got started painting swimming pools. “I’ve been doing this for about ten years – full time, but I’ve always been creative and liked painting. When it comes to my mural work, it’s really great to be able to diversify and paint in private homes,” explained Amador, “Pools seem to be pretty popular these days, and I’ve had a lot of fun the two times I’ve had the chance to paint a pool.”
What drew our eye to Amador’s work, is not only the vivid and surrealistic imagery she incorporates into her murals but also her preferred canvas. A swimming pool seems to be the most unlikely place you’d find a detailed mural depicting an astronaut lost in space. However, it’s exactly that decision to apply this painting technique inside the pool that is turning heads.
“That was my first time ever painting on the ground or in an immersive surface like that, where it’s actually around you and trying to think about all the different angles and how most people would be experiencing the painting,” said Amador.
“There were a lot of unknowns with the space pool specifically, and I just went for it. I thought the astronaut would be a really good way to achieve a good perspective from either side of the pool, and that was the focal point,” explained Amador, “Then I was able to add a vortex and galaxy. The client had a couple of other specifics they also wanted to be thrown in there, but that’s usually how these concepts unfold. I meet with my clients, see what their overall vision is, and then I come up with my own spin on what that is.”
Amador Creates Surreal Art Murals in Swimming Pools
The project took Amador a while to complete and was well documented on social media while she was painting it, as are many of her other projects. In the course of painting the pool, she began to attract more and more followers. Consequently, she slowly began thinking of her next pool painting which would feature a surreal seascape theme.
“It’s funny because some of my most viral projects have been a swimming pool and then another huge ocean scene I did. I knew that this one was going to be a hit,” said Amador.
Her latest creation which depicts an underwater scene was documented in a time-lapse video of her painting the entire swimming pool over the course of ten days. As with the first, her second pool painting generated millions of views and shares.
“I’m so humbled and grateful for all of the people appreciating my work. I could have never imagined millions of people getting to see my art and I’m glad it makes them happy. That has been an incredible experience and I’m really just thankful for all the support,” said Amador.
On Creating Art in The Pool
Ania acknowledged that this type of artwork is temporary and degrades over time and her client who commissioned the work knew this as well. Due to the technique used and the harsh environment a swimming pool presents, the pool will need to be repainted eventually. The average lifespan of the paint her clients chose is only 3 to 5 years, according to Amador.
Not all art is made to be permanent. Ephemeral art is to be appreciated in the here and now. Although these murals are temporary, it’s easy to appreciate the beauty in Amador’s work.
When she’s not painting her latest pool masterpiece, you can find this professional artist painting at rock concerts in front of a live audience, working on a new commission, or teaching a workshop. If you’re eager to learn more, listen to our entire conversation and interview with Ania Amador on the Pool Magazine podcast.
Photo Credits: Ania Amador
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