Swimming pool businesses try to keep busy during frigid winter months

By NICHOLAS DETTMANN - Daily News

Dec. 16, 2016

Isaish Trecinski, of West Bend works on kicking as his father, Chad, holds him during the learn to swim program June 25, 2015, at the West Bend high schools’ pool in West Bend.
Daily News

A sign flashes in the front window of A-1 Pools in West Bend: “Open.”

Swimming outdoors this time of the year isn’t recommended. That doesn’t mean swimming pool business owners like Dale Miller, owner of A-1 Pools in West Bend, take it easy.

“We’re starting to order our supplies in,” Miller said. “We do a lot of work in the busy months in the year.”

In the slow months — typically once fall hits — swimming pool stores begin to focus on next year. Business does slow down, but doesn’t stop.

In the swimming pool business, the season starts to pick up right around tax refund season — late March or early April. Then it’s full-go in May, June and July.

“May is like our December,” Miller said. “That’s our busiest time.”

What keeps businesses such as Miller’s afloat in the offseason is that’s usually a time when people will buy items for a pool or a hot tub, including accessories and toys. They’ll also service hot tubs and indoor pools.

Hot tub sales, Miller said, are typically consistent throughout the year. It is not unusual for customers to buy the pools in the winter or at least make down payments on them.

“People will start planning ahead for spring,” Miller said. “Some people give a gift of a hot tub for Christmas.”

On Thursday afternoon, soft music played and only one customer came in during an approximately 30-minute stretch — to pick up something that was ordered.

Miller said it doesn’t get lonely in the store: “There’s always something to do” He opened A-1 Pools in 1979. Its present- day location, 1168 N. Main St., opened in 1988. There’s also a New Berlin location on West National Avenue.

Outside of maybe one year since 1979, sales have been consistent, even as more municipalities look at different water entertainment options such as splash pads or interactive pools.

“Even when the economy went bad, we were still able to maintain our business well,” Miller said. He added that what hurts his business is when there is more development for apartment complexes rather than houses.

So, just because it’s cold outside, doesn’t mean it’s the wrong time to install a pool, a hot tub or both.

“They’ve got to check with the local village or city to see what the ordinances are,” Miller said when asked what are some tips potential customers should start considering if they want to put in a pool in the spring. “Some lots have plenty of room for a pool. Some lots you can’t put a pool on. They’ve got to watch for overhead utilities, underground utilities.”

“If all those things are fine, there’s not too much stopping you from getting a pool,” Miller said.

Well, there could be one thing: money. On average, an above-ground pool can cost anywhere between $5,000 to $10,000.

If an in-ground pool is desired, the prices there vary greatly. Miller said, typically, the minimum to expect to spend on such an investment is about $30,000.

So, why does someone get into a swimming pool business, especially in a region of the U.S. that enjoys maybe five or six months of good “swimming” weather?

Miller started in construction out of high school, worked at a fencing business and later managed a restaurant.

“After managing a restaurant and being inside a building all the time, I knew I liked outside work,” Miller said. “I enjoyed being outdoors.”

He eventually got into a fencing business for himself. At the same time, he got into selling hot tubs “because it’d be some income in the winter months and that work kind of led me into the pool business.

“I don’t think it’s a tough business,” he added. “The tough part is everything comes at one time. But I think all businesses have a season, whether its lawn mowers or snow blowers.”