Long Beach, California March 10-12, 2022
Customers remain loyal as service techs are forced to raise prices for pool service and repairs
For American pool service technicians, prices have gone up across the board. There is nothing that has not been impacted, and for many, it is presenting dramatic challenges.
This February, Service Industry News surveyed its readers regarding these price increases, to get a sense of how pool service pros are coping with the skyrocketing costs of doing business.
For example, in Florida, where liquid chlorine has traditionally been the cheapest in the nation – hovering at a little more than $1 a gallon for the last decade – some service pros responding to our survey said they are currently paying $4.50, matching the higher prices that the rest of the country is paying.
The price of liquid chlorine has gone up elsewhere, too. Southern Californians, who last year said they paid between $2.50 and $3 a gallon, likewise said they are now paying between $4 and $5 a gallon.
It’s no secret that trichlor prices have gone through the roof in all parts of the U.S. Last year, the national average cost of trichlor was about $97 for a 50-pound bucket. Now, nationwide, service pros are paying nearly twice that price for the same chemical, at greater than $180, with some of the
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highest prices seen on the East Coast. There, some are paying more than $250 for that bucket.
And lest it go unreported, calcium hypochlorite prices have also risen. For example, in the Southwest, where last year service pros could get it for about $2 a pound, they are now paying between 50 cents to a dollar more.
To offset these spikes, many of those responding to our survey said they are changing their pricing structure from a flat monthly rate that includes the cost of chemicals to a per-visit rate plus charging extra for chlorine and other chemicals. Indeed, many said that they now don’t supply the chlorine at all, requiring that their customers supply the chemical themselves.
Some even said that they are seriously considering turning away all accounts that don’t have salt water chlorine generators so that they don’t have to incur the rising chemical costs.
Plumbing supplies and equipment costs have also gone up. PVC, which one respondent said could be procured at $11.50 for 20 feet of 2-inch pipe only last year, is today available for $39. Indeed, most respondents said that are paying three times more for PVC this year than they did last year.
Everywhere, service pros are saying that equipment prices have risen. This is particularly true of variable speed pumps and salt chlorine generators, but also heaters and filters. Pool equipment prices are up by 20 to 30 percent, according to survey respondents.
Lots of service pros are seriously frustrated by these equipment price increases. The main problem, said one respondent, is that the vendors raise the prices without informing him how much each item is going up. And the problem is made worse by the fact that everywhere, equipment is in short supply and backordered. A service pro might quote a price for equipment replacement, but by the time the items come in, the supplier has raised the price.
All service pros responding to our survey said that they have raised their prices – on average, by about 20 percent. A respondent from Florida said that it’s difficult to compete with the sheer volume of unlicensed pool service businesses, so he can only raise his prices by so much.
For most, however, although they have been reluctant to do it, the demand for pool service has been so high that they don’t see many raised eyebrows when they break the news. Most survey respondents say that their clients are aware of the increased prices and haven’t hesitated to spend more.
Finding adequate labor is another story, according to those responding to our survey. People just don’t seem to want to work, they say. The American work ethic is in shambles, and the government is shutting us down, they say. If you get any response at all to a help wanted ad, the majority of applicants don’t bother to show up, one business owner said.
To attract labor, nearly all survey respondents said they have raised their wages–formost,about20percenthigher.
According to one respondent, last year, he paid his workers $17 an hour without benefits. This February, he hired a new service tech at $19 to start, which will be raised to $24.50 in 90 days. He’s also offering full medical benefits for him, his wife and two kids, with the employee paying $0 per month. The cost to the business owner will be $1,763 per month plus an additional $400 per month for a 401K.
Adding it all up, 2022 will certainly present continued challenges for business owners.
How they manage to rise to that challenge will be a testament to the industry’s resilience.