PoolWerx Founder and CEO John O’Brien says consumer confidence is high and the dry times are over for the Australian pool industry, after unveiling six new retail stores in as many months.
The company reported a revenue increase of 8 per cent in the six months to January 1, on track to exceed $75 million in sales, while Mr O’Brien said retail sales were up 12 per cent, excluding the impact of the recent store openings.
Data from the IBISWorld Swimming Pool and Spa Equipment Stores report shows sector growth was only 0.1 per cent last financial year and 0.2 per cent over the past five years, indicating the outperformance of the national pool and spa care franchise.
“It’s the best first half we’ve had in a decade,” Mr O’Brien said.
“The pool and spa care industry has almost fully recovered from the double decline; low spending in the wake of the GFC and water restrictions during drought years.”
While demand for items such as pool chemicals remained steady, Mr O’Brien said the revival in purchases such as solar heating, pool blankets and energy saving pool equipment contributed substantially to the spike in sales.
“We had to work hard for these discretionary purchases in the past but pool owners are investing again.
“Technology has also improved dramatically, with the latest energy saving pool equipment in high demand as electricity prices continue to rise. Innovation in such technology has been one of the most exciting evolutions we’ve witnessed in years.
“Pool owners are also seeing pool upgrades as adding value to their property again, with our research indicating 40 per cent plan to do so this year. This shows a vast shift in consumer spending in the sector compared to two years ago.
“Our franchise partners have also become better business people, and significant investments in technology have allowed them to operate more efficiently.”
As a result PoolWerx has opened six retail shops nationally including one competitor acquisition since July 1, and is in the process of opening four more before the financial year end.
22 new franchise partners have also joined PoolWerx in the same period taking total franchise numbers to 225. Mr O’Brien said he was confident the pool network could reach 350 stores and 1,000 mobile vans by 2020.
“We’ve identified opportunities for 350 franchise territories – each with at least one retail store and multiple vans.
“It’s about encouraging growth through multi-unit franchising, and that we’ve taken out the franchising industry’s ‘Multi-unit Franchise of the Year’ award for the second consecutive year shows the strength in our system.
“Significant changes to our support structure, with a particular focus on retail and multi-unit franchising, have geared us ready for growth. We’ve recruited five new field and support staff, and made an addition to our recruitment team to focus on finding people ready to take the franchise journey with us.”
Mr O’Brien said improved business confidence and positive year-on-year results had attracted fresh interest in his franchise.
“The market is certainly more positive than when full employment meant people weren’t looking to buy a franchise, and banks weren’t lending.
“We’re now attracting people from corporate backgrounds ready for big business, existing store managers looking to take the next step, and our accredited banks are making growth much easier.
“Our career pathway proposition is still our biggest draw card in the industry. Unlike other brands, for a $100,000 investment in a single van business you can have every opportunity to add multiple vans and multiple stores over time, and turn over millions.”