How the Supply Chain is Affecting the Swimming Pool Industry (and What it Means for Your Pool Project)
The supply chain affects every business and consumer on the planet… and over the past year or so, we’ve all seen what happens when it breaks down.
You probably remember the great toilet paper shortage of 2020. These days, you’re more likely to see shortages of stuff that makes other stuff -- like building materials and mechanical parts, for example. I’ve been waiting for four bolts to fix my boat for nearly two months! I’ll probably be waiting for a while, because I’m hardly the only one who needs specific parts to fix up complex machines. There aren’t enough parts to build Chevys, so General Motors literally stopped making pick-up trucks at two plants this week.
The swimming pool industry has been impacted by these issues in massive ways as well. This is also why, if you’ve signed a contract for a pool installation in the past year or so, you might still be waiting to swim your first lap. A confluence of two major factors have led to this reality:
- Demand for new pools is at all-time highs (read more about it here).
- The entire industry is working through a serious supply shortage, in a wide range of critical materials, for manufacturing and installing pools.
We've put together a short video to give you a high-level overview of 2021's supply-chain challenges, which you can watch below:
For more detail, keep reading. First, let's take a look at some parts and materials currently in short supply for swimming pool builders around the world:
- PVC (pool plumbing materials)
- Pump and filter systems
- Concrete (used for concrete pools and patios/coping around any inground pool)
- Pavers (decking/retaining wall materials)
- Maintenance equipment
- And much more
Material shortages have not only stretched out timetables on projects like your inground pool, they’ve also (unfortunately) made so many elements of these projects cost more that pool builders often have no choice but to pass higher costs on to pool buyers.
We wrote this article to help you understand specific reasons behind the longer timetables and higher costs you might be experiencing in 2021.
All fiberglass pool manufacturers, including River Pools, have been dealing with the same supply chain issues, which we’ll explain in the rest of this article:
Material shortages (fiberglass, PVC, resin, and more)
Glass fiber, which is used to manufacture a wide range of durable products, suffered a severe production downturn when the initial lockdowns swept across the world about a year ago. Deliveries of raw glass fiber material, however, have remained higher than usual since the start of 2020.
The combination of sky-high demand and reduced production supply meant that fiberglass producers drew down their pre-pandemic reserve supplies -- and as a result, the cost of raw glass fiber reached the highest levels seen in nearly a decade. Most manufacturers (like River Pools) have tried to absorb higher glass fiber costs instead of raising product prices, but some uptick was inevitable.
Resin, a key component in our pool shells and in many other pool parts and accessories, is in the middle of the biggest demand surge ever seen by industry tracker PlasticsExchange. This is happening in spite of a recent price spike that pushed bulk resin costs above $1 per pound for the first time in years. High resin prices are partly due to shortages caused by damaging winter storms -- over 5 billion pounds of resin production capacity went unmet because of plant shutdowns and stoppages in February.
Resins of various types are used to make everything from the gelcoat surfaces on our pool shells to the PVC pipes we use to hook up your pool’s filter system.
The COVID-19 lockdowns felt like the mother of all supply chain disruptions when they forced businesses of all sorts to shut down in 2020. But 2021 has thrown a few of its own monkey wrenches into the works.
The winter storms that hit Texas in February had a massive impact on production, particularly in the resin industry. Texas is the heart of the U.S. petrochemical industry, and in ordinary times, it turns quite a bit of petroleum into plastics.
Texas wasn’t the only state to feel the effects of severe weather, though. Louisiana -- home to many offshore oil rigs and petrochemical plants -- had much of its capacity knocked offline by Hurricane Laura last August. The combined impact of the hurricane and the winter storm could depress resin production for at least six months, according to Harvard Business Review.
Producers might ordinarily turn to overseas supplies to bridge the gap, but last month, a massive container ship got itself stuck in the Suez Canal for a week, slowing sea-borne shipping to a standstill and depriving manufacturers of critical supplies.
What this means for you
In short, the market for inground pools has been hit by a perfect storm of perfect storms. We’ve gotten through pandemic shutdowns, weather disruptions, and one really big, really stuck boat in the worst possible place.
It’s rather baffling if you look at all the events as a whole.
Like most swimming pool builders, we’re working as hard as we can to manufacture and install every customer’s pool, but the simple reality is that we can’t work any faster if we want to maintain our industry-leading standards for manufacturing and installation.
Nor can we overcome supply chain issues when they are simply out of our control -- regardless of our desire and efforts to prevent them.
No doubt, it’s a frustrating situation for all parties involved.
Homeowners want their pools to be installed right now.
Pool builders and manufacturers are doing their best to make hay while they can.
But the obstacles we’ve discussed will likely continue to affect our entire industry (and many others) for the foreseeable future.
So... whether you’re planning on getting your pool from River Pools or from another builder/manufacturer, we can only say this:
Hang in there.
The wait will be worth it.
The memories will soon be made.
They may not start being made when we all hoped they would, but they will certainly be made nonetheless.
The pandemic has forced a patience in each of us that we likely had no idea we had.
So let’s keep pushing through this together and all continue to do the very best we can.
At River Pools, we manufacture world-class fiberglass pools for customers across North America. If you're shopping around for a fiberglass pool, feel free to take a look at our catalog of models, visit our extensive video library, try out our pool cost calculator, or request custom pricing using the button below.