ATLANTIC CITY — Judging by the 50 percent increase in attendance at this year’s Atlantic City Pool & Spa Show, the industry is warming up after a few slow years in the down economy.
On Tuesday, the trade show got weather to match, and attendees lined up 80 deep to get into the Atlantic City Convention Center.
“Wow, the show’s much bigger than last year,” Sean Redfern said to his partner as he stepped onto the exhibit floor.
Redfern said there were more people and more exhibits, which made him happy since he’s a wholesale distributor from West Chester, Pa., looking for new products to offer.
Trish McCormick, show manager for the Northeast Spa & Pool Association, said more than 9,000 people had preregistered for the show, with more turning out as a result of the favorable forecast. Two years ago, the association was happy to have 6,000 people in attendance.
McCormick said she knew seven days after Hurricane Sandy that Atlantic City “was up and running as usual,” although she did have to reassure a lot of exhibitors and attendees.
The jump in attendance suggests that the city’s convention business going forward will hardly be affected, if at all, by exaggerated perceptions of damage to the southern shore.
The biggest storm-related change to the 32nd Atlantic City Pool & Spa Show, in fact, was the addition to the 75 educational seminars of a panel discussion on flood-related issues.
McCormick said industry representatives wanted help answering questions about such topics as electrical equipment immersed in salt water, damage assessments and renovation strategies, so an association member from Florida with substantial flood experience was brought in to participate.
On the floor among the 430 exhibitors, the upbeat mood was repeatedly attributed to the expected rebound in the industry this year and the welcome break from frigid temperatures just a couple of days ago.
Donald Tallman, president of Water World Fiberglass Pools in Hammonton, said he was at the show to line up dealers for his company’s products.
Tallman said he already had talked to a few dealers about the possibility in the first few hours of the show.
“Business has been steady, and we can see the economy coming back,” said Tallman, of Hammonton. “Last week, we had three pools to dig and we couldn’t because of the cold. We’ve already got 40 to 50 pools sold for the year.”
He said because the show is so close, he arranged a shuttle to take potential dealers to his company’s manufacturing site. Water World makes fiberglass pools up to 44-feet long, spa/pools to 36 feet, and spas in three sizes.
Paulette Pitrak, education director for the Northeast association, said industry trends this year include chlorine generators for pools and continued energy efficiency improvements.
She said chlorine generators, often combined with ultraviolet light or ozone generators, can clean a pool more quickly.
Industry sales figures for 2012 haven’t been released yet. In 2011, sales of in-ground pools dropped 4 percent from the prior year and hot tubs fell 5 percent, while above-ground pools increased 9 percent, according to data from the Association of Pool and Spa Professionals.
New Jersey was among the top 10 states for new units in 2011, with installations of 1,504 in-ground pools, 4,600 above-ground pools, and 6,601 hot tubs. the association said.
The pool and spa trade show will continue through Thursday, open only to industry members.
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