According to the most recent report from the U.S. Department of Commerce, one of its most closely monitored measures of inflation — the Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) index — increased by 0.4 percent in April, up by 4.4 percent from a year ago, underscoring how stubborn inflation has been.
Across the board, Americans are feeling the impact of inflation for everyday goods and services. And according to National Pool Partners, a pool service acquisition and partnership group, the pool industry is feeling inflation at much higher levels than the national average — reaching between 25 and 35 percent in some areas, they say.
Cost increases for pool equipment, labor, and certainly chemicals, have skyrocketed in recent times: Leslie’s is currently asking for almost $250 for a 50-pound bucket of trichlor tabs.
When inflation rises, every aspect of owning a small business becomes more expensive. That jump in the cost of doing business has hit many pool service companies hard.
Clearly, this increase in expenses has to be passed on to customers by increasing monthly service invoices.
And that’s why this issue of Service Industry News, the first of our three annual survey issues, is focused on the question of billing – specifically, how much do you charge your customers for once weekly pool service?
In recent years, we have been witness to the steady increase in billing as pool service companies have, with dragging feet, been forced to raise their rates.
In Southern California, for which pool service owners’ participation in our annual survey is heaviest and thus provides the most reliable data, we have watched this charge increase from just over $100 a month in 2019, to about $130 a month in 2021, to $140 a month in 2022, to their current 2023 charge of $160 a month.
It is important to note that this price increase, which has also taken place across the rest of the country, reflects the increased cost of doing business – the shocking increase in the price of chemicals, as well as pool equipment, and attracting labor. In no way does it reflect an increase in profitability.
But it can be tricky to determine how much one should raise rates to remain solvent and retain profitability comparable to years past. In times characterized by this stubborn inflation, it is simply not possible to sit back and weather the storm. But it’s tough to determine by how much you can raise your rates when you find yourself paralyzed by the certainty that doing so will result in the loss of customers.
One place to start making estimates about profits and losses resulting from rate raising is a nifty inflation impact tool created by National Pool Partners. It’s an easy-to-use spreadsheet, made in Microsoft Excel. Users can input their weekly service charges, either including or not including chemicals, the number of pools on service, number of employees they have and their hourly wages, and the costs of chemicals.
The spreadsheet will then automatically calculate profitability. Users can then input price changes to determine loss resulting from inflation. Then, by raising rates — and importantly, losing customers — business owners can determine how to achieve their desired profit levels.
This special issue of Service Industry News is the first installment of three survey issues. We present the 2023 results on billing — specifically, how do you charge, and how much do you charge, for your services.
This issue on billing is the result of our 36th annual survey, a nationwide service technician feedback form that asks professionals a variety of questions about their businesses. The data presented is the result of a survey made available to thousands of service professionals across the United States.
The information presented here is the result of survey participation from 15 states. Responses came from service firms both large and small.
Because there are regional trends in how pool service professionals conduct their businesses, the data is broken down by geographic area, which might enable business owners to compare their own practices to their geographic peers.
Although it is not a purely scientific survey, we believe that our results present a representative picture of the state of the industry in 2023.
Reader participation this year was sufficient to enable us to choose those pricing categories that were supported by adequate data.
In some cases, light participation does not allow us to provide detailed breakdowns for each level of service. Nonetheless, we have acquired enough data to provide some information for every area of the country.
We thank all of those who took part in this year’s survey and made it possible for the industry to get an idea of today’s regional trends.
In our next installment, we will take a look at labor fees that are charged by service professionals.
These include not only hourly labor charges, but also the amounts that are charged for equipment repairs, seasonal jobs, and other specialty tasks.
Look for it in the June 15 edition of Service Industry News.