The COVID-19 pandemic is—to say the least—an unprecedented global event in modern times. Even as the public health outlook improves, and authorities relax social distancing mandates, the ripple effects of the pandemic continue. For the hot tub and swim spa industry, those ripples still feel like waves.
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A Big Change in Consumer Behavior
Traditionally, the number of hot tubs and swim spas manufactured and sold each year is predictable. It grows at a steady rate as people age, and hydrotherapy and aquatic fitness become higher priorities to remedy sore muscles and aching joints. For decades, the spa industry has been accustomed to a gradual upward trend each year.
The busy season for spa retailers and manufacturers typically runs from early spring to late summer. But in early 2020, consumer behavior changed dramatically. In just a few short months, an entire year of inventory was consumed, and spa manufacturers were flooded with two years’ worth of new orders. Across the spa industry, backorders exceeded 12 months or longer. And that was just the beginning.
Spending More Time at Home
Employers grappled with keeping businesses open while protecting their workforce from the coronavirus. Millions of people transitioned to remote work, others were laid off, school years ended early, and everyone spent more time at home. Initially, many assumed life would return to normal in a few months. But reality set in as family vacations were cancelled and travel plans were postponed. Everything from dining out to movie night became a homebound affair.
Home Nesting and Staycations
As cabin fever took hold, people turned their attention to home improvement. Demand for building materials, appliances, furniture, consumer electronics, and backyard ‘staycation’ products skyrocketed—including hot tubs and swim spas. Automobiles, boats, and recreational vehicles also saw record-high demand. As sales boomed, however, the global supply chain stretched thinner and thinner.
Alongside the increase in new spa sales, many existing spa owners focused on overdue spa maintenance or repairing neglected spas. Available replacement parts were quickly consumed, leading to scarcity in the marketplace, increased backorders, and excessively long wait times.
Social Distancing Slows Production
With available inventory consumed, and a tsunami of new orders flooding in, ramping up factory production was the obvious solution. But quarantines and social distancing left many factories with fewer workers on the production line. Or, factories had to switch to slower, less efficient processes to ensure compliance with state and local authorities.
Higher demand and slower production created bottlenecks in the supply chain and increased wait times for everyone. Quite literally, suppliers, manufacturers, retailers, and consumers were all waiting in the same slow-moving line. Similar to rush-hour traffic, everyone contributed to the problem but nobody was at fault.
Similar to rush-hour traffic, everyone contributed to the problem but nobody was at fault.
Industrial Accidents and Natural Disasters
As if the pandemic wasn’t enough, a series of industrial accidents and natural disasters added to the problem. For example, an industrial fire at a major chip maker in Japan severely reduced the supply of IC chips and display drivers. Meanwhile, consumer demand for game consoles, televisions, computers, home appliances, cars and trucks added further supply-chain woes.
Fewer chips and higher demand forced automakers to slash their production targets. General Motors (GM) announced plans to shut down three North American full-size pickup truck plants, and Toyota cut production by 40% to 60% for a wide range of vehicles.
Even payment card manufacturers are warning of potential shortages of chip-based credit and debit cards.
With electronic chips in short supply, topside controls, spa control packs, and wireless hardware used by the entire spa industry remain a scarce commodity. Having barely enough supply for production means very few (if any) replacement parts are available for existing spa owners. Unfortunately, long wait times are still the norm.
Then, a deep freeze and power blackout in Texas severely reduced the supply of plastics, resins, and foams. Acrylic sheet, vinyl ester resin, fiberglass chop, and spray foam insulation are all critical materials for the hot tub and swim spa industry. Other industries also rely on these materials, causing fierce competition, delays, price increases, and very limited supply. Some suppliers even declared “force majeure,” meaning that unforeseeable circumstances prevented them from fulfilling orders to manufacturers like Marquis.
Increased Shipping Demands
As can be seen on freeways across the country, many more semi-trucks are on the road. Less visible, but equally dramatic, are the many container ships on the ocean packed high with raw materials, components, and finished goods.
The exponential increase in shipments bound for North American factories and retail stores has overwhelmed major ports of call. Containers may sit for weeks waiting to be loaded, unloaded or cleared for pick up. Air freight traffic is booming, and costs are on the rise. Competition for trucking has skyrocketed, forcing shippers to cater to the highest bidder, leading to cancelled shipments and increased ground transportation costs.
America’s freight railroads are also struggling, as reported by the Wall Street Journal: “The challenges largely stem from two issues buffeting the U.S. economy: labor shortages and widespread supply-chain bottlenecks as manufacturing ramps up and the economy snaps back.”
“When exactly will my spa be produced?”
As you can imagine, factories rely on a steady flow of raw materials and components to build products. Normally, spas are produced in a very linear, predictable fashion. But when suppliers reduce expected quotas, inbound shipments fail to arrive on time, and outbound trucking schedules change, production schedules and delivery dates have to be adjusted. What does this mean in practical terms?
Spa designs vary and different spas use different parts. Supply shortages may delay one spa configuration while pulling another forward in line. This creates a variety of constantly-moving targets for factory personnel to manage. At Marquis, any spas unable to be built due to supply shortages take first priority once the needed parts arrive. Of course, once delayed spas are added back into the production schedule, it pushes other spas back in line.
This explains the difficulty in answering the question, “When exactly will my spa be produced?” The honest answer is, “It depends on where each spa stands in line.” For all the reasons outlined in this article, the line keeps changing on a daily basis—impacting thousands of variables. Therefore, it’s best to wait until a spa enters production to communicate more specific updates.
“When exactly will my spa be produced?” The honest answer is, “It depends on where each spa stands in line.” For all the reasons outlined in this article, the line keeps changing on a daily basis—impacting thousands of variables. Therefore, it’s best to wait until a spa enters production to communicate more specific updates.
Rather than providing countless, unreliable updates—based on ever-changing variables—Marquis remains laser-focused on building and shipping spas as quickly and efficiently as possible. As soon as spas enter production, we provide Dealers with a meaningful update based on reliable information. And once the supply chain stabilizes, such updates will improve.
Better Times on the Horizon
Thanks to the hard work and dedication of our team, we are seeing good signs of improvement. Whereas wait times for Marquis hot tubs were 14 months or longer early in the pandemic, average wait times* are now approaching five to six months. (The wait time for swim spas is still about seven to eight months.) Meanwhile, we refuse to compromise our strict quality, beauty, and performance standards. After all, you chose the best and that is what you deserve.
While unpredictable shortages from our suppliers may extend wait times further, we are keeping our Dealers regularly informed of the situation. Firm updates are provided to Dealers once a backordered spa enters production. In the meantime, we appreciate everyone’s ongoing patience and understanding. (Those aren’t just words, we truly mean it.)
*Average wait times are based on order receipt at the factory, destined for consumers in North America. Consumers in the UK and Europe should account for additional shipping time. For more information, please contact your local Marquis Dealer.
Weathering the Storm One Day at a Time
As an employee-owned company, each of us at Marquis is personally invested in weathering the storm. We take each spa order personally, knowing it represents a major financial and emotional investment. After all, hundreds of spa retailers rely on our products to sustain their family-owned businesses. And thousands of new spa owners eagerly await the health, wellness and family connection benefits of owning a Marquis hot tub or Aquatic Training Vessels™ swim spa. By working together, we have overcome unprecedented challenges and will continue to succeed.
We Are All in This Together
As sentimental as it may sound, “We are all in this together.” Just like you and your family, the pandemic has been difficult for the people behind Marquis products. Whether coping with the coronavirus directly, adapting to quarantines and other precautionary measures, accepting higher demands and added stress, and working six days a week to meet production targets. Not to mention the Oregon wildfires of 2020, and the Pacific Northwest heat wave of 2021. But through it all, we have remained committed to our customers. Why? Because we care.
Looking Forward to Many Years of Enjoyment
Rest assured we understand the frustration of waiting extended months to enjoy your investment. That’s why we are working so hard on your behalf. Hopefully, you appreciate the toil, tears, and sweat that go into making our products. We certainly appreciate your patience, mercy, and understanding as part of the Marquis family of spa owners.
We take pride in knowing our hard work and dedication will translate into many years of enjoyment for you and your family. The frustrations of today will become a faint memory when compared to the countless happy memories you will create with family and friends for many years to come. It will be well worth the wait, and better days are just ahead.