Why are hot tubs always out of stock nowadays? And just why are they taking so long to arrive?
In a normal year in normal times, you could walk into any hot tub showroom throughout the year and generally find a wide selection of hot tubs that could happily be delivered to you in just a few short weeks provided you had a suitable base and electrics in place. And if you wanted something a bit different that required a custom order? That would still take just 10-12 weeks to manufacture and arrive in the UK.
So why are hot tub customers walking into showrooms and enquiring about models only to be faced with a much narrower selection than usual and informed of crazy sounding lead times? Maybe you’ve got a hot tub on order and have experienced a few delays and are naturally wondering what is going on? Or perhaps you simply need a new cover, pump or other part for an existing spa and have been told it could take months to arrive?
The reality is hot tub stock and stock of components are in very short supply and have been for quite some time. This is a situation that has continued to evolve over the last year and is a complicated mixture of covid-related difficulties, demand and shipping challenges. There’s a fair few factors at play that we’ll explore here.
INITIAL SURGE IN DEMAND:
Our lives all changed back in March 2020 when we went into full UK lockdown. We were asked to stay home and that is just what we did. Holidays were cancelled, families separated and for the first time ever we were looking just at the 4 walls of our homes. By staying home, we started thinking about wistfully about all the things we could do. When they weren’t homeschooling or home-working, families were pottering about the house baking banana bread, crafting and turning their hand to a bit of DIY.
Then something odd happened... instead of the typical April showers us Brits are used to, we were instead blessed with weeks upon weeks of glorious weather. Our grand designs started turning to our gardens to create that much needed escape. Garden furniture, plants and BBQs were all snapped up but there was one finishing touch that quickly became the summer’s must have item...
Despite showrooms being closed, hot tub sales went through the roof in April 2020 and continued to skyrocket throughout the whole summer and even now throughout the winter. With cancelled holidays and amazing weather at home, a hot tub became the ultimate goal for many families looking to unwind and survive lockdown in style. The idea of escaping to a hot tub after long day of home working and grim reports on the news really captured the nations imagination.
So what was the problem? Hot tubs have certainly been growing in popularity over the last few years and there’s usually great stock availability. This sudden rush was far greater than the industry could have ever anticipated. Stock held in the UK and ex display models were rapidly plundered from showroom floors with customers clamoring to get their hands on the last few available models.
RACE FOR STOCK:
Soon attention turned to hot tubs that were either on the manufacturing line and would arrive in just a few short weeks and these were the next round of spas to be snapped up. Larger retailers including ourselves started pre-ordering hot tubs by the container load in order to have sufficient stock to meet with demand. After all a short 10-12 week wait when faced with an endless lockdown was still appealing to a lot of families. These containers were snapped up within days and so we, like many others, ordered more.
Soon we started hearing apologies from our suppliers and then the manufacturers we work with of short delays to pre-existing orders but only by a matter of a few weeks. Understandably annoying for customers who were desperate to get in their hot tubs but not the end of the world. But then it started getting murky and we were hearing rumours of further delays to subsequent orders. What started off as a 12 week turnaround had turned into 16 weeks, then 20 and then much much longer...
MANUFACTURING & COMPONENT SHORTAGES
Delays were increasing exponentially across the entire supply chain. So whilst we retailers were all placing container orders and expecting hot tubs to arrive within a few months, behind the scenes things had started going awry on production lines for several reasons.
The problem was this surge in demand was not just unique to the UK but across the globe. So hundreds of large retailers placing far larger than expected container orders in the midst of a global pandemic with factory shutdowns and reduced manpower in factories at any one time was enough to cripple production lines. Just at the time when businesses globally had to reduce staff presence in workplaces was the time where everything needed to be hugely upscaled.
The second problem? In our industry there are a small number of large suppliers of raw materials and basic components that serve a lot of the main brands and factories. Everything from acrylic for hot tub shells to vinyl for traditional covers and standard parts by Gecko and Balboa were suddenly under the same immense pressure and raw materials were in short supply. This left hot tubs on manufacturing lines without crucial parts and created an exponential delay to many orders.
The third complicating factor is shipping. Most hot tubs are manufactured in the USA or China and so would take 3-4 weeks to ship under normal circumstances. During the pandemic shipping did start off largely unaffected with only minor delays as could be expected. As the months drew on however, haulage strikes in the USA and then container shortages started to filter through. Hot tubs that had finally undergone their long manufacturing process were then left sat in factories waiting to be loaded onto container ships and make their final journey.
It’s not always plain sailing once the spas hit water. Before Christmas the ports at Felixstowe, Dover and Southampton all then hit the headlines as we heard reports of container ships unable to dock. Again this was a mixture of pandemic related delays but also complications owing to Brexit and new customs levies. The process of docking, navigating customs and unloading has taken much longer than usual.
WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU ORDER A HOT TUB TODAY?
So none of this will sound particularly encouraging if you’re hoping to get a taste of hot tub life this Summer or if you have a hot tub on order. The first thing to say is that the situation IS IMPROVING and there is some stock available.
Many manufacturers have now had a chance to streamline models and upscale production of key lines. Everyone is working rapidly to fulfil the backorders that us retailers have placed. If you were to special order a hot tub then you would still be looking at an average lead time of 6-9 months or even longer for a swim spa as they take up so much container space but a popular, standard sized model could now be on its way to you much sooner.
Retailers like ourselves have heavily invested in stock for this year that is now starting to filter through. Whilst demand is still far higher than average at this time of year, we have a number of our most popular hot tubs still available and scheduled to arrive for Spring and Summer installation. There’s even the odd model ready for you to enjoy in just a few short weeks!
The snag? Whilst traditionally customers will start the process of shopping around in Spring and early Summer, Winter demand has stayed at such a level that these pre-ordered containers are being depleted of available Summer stock already. In normal times many customers like to get ahead and prepare their base and gardens over Spring before ordering in the Summer and usually this approach works well for a fast turnaround. But with lead times much extended and stock being sold already, this risks leaving you with very little choice and facing an Autumn/Winter 2021 installation.
If you’re even remotely considering a hot tub at any point in 2021 or even early 2022, we highly advise that you start exploring your options now. Although both our showrooms are closed due to lockdown and tier restrictions, our friendly sales team are still able to offer virtual consultations, video content of best-selling models and the same expert knowledge you’d have if you were to visit us in person with absolutely no pressure.
Contact the team below for more information and to help us narrow down your dream hot tub.
MySpa Leicester: 0116 402 0915
MySpa Cheshire: 01625 919 150