Custom pool covers are a specialized feature for high-end projects. Here are the pros and cons of using this application

All dressed up: custom pool covers are a specialized feature for high-end projects. Here are the pros and cons of using this application

Shabnam Mogharabi

The largest pool cover image Rick Clark can remember is a 25-by-50-foot U.S. flag designed for a wealthy New York magazine publisher.

“As a matter of fact, there were some stories about airplanes flying overhead and passengers reporting it when they landed,” said the president of Cover-Pools Inc., based in Salt Lake City.

“They said there was an American flag lying out on the ground somewhere and that someone should do something about it.”

Not all cover designs are as elaborate as to garner the attention of the FAA. However, custom-emblazoned automatic covers are a small niche of the high-end pool market that installers can use to generate hefty profits.

“I believe this is something the retailer could benefit from,” said Clark, who estimates that less than 3 percent of pool covers each year feature some kind of special artwork. “For people who want something like this, price is not an issue. That being the case, there can be some big profit margins.”

Landscapes and logos

Cover designs include landscapes, company and sports team logos, monograms, a family crest, or even cartoon and movie characters. Often the vinyl lettering is hand-painted by an artist, upping the cost of the product to the point that it is suitable for only the most high-end projects.

“It can be anywhere from 30 to 100 percent more expensive, depending on the number of colors, the size of the design and the registration of color,” said Paul Autry, general manager of Poolsaver by Sun Systems Inc. in Brea, Calif. “There are also licensing issues that you have to deal with. Some designs are public-use logos that can be used for silk screening. With others, you I have to worry about the usage of trademarks.”

Still, some installers think the covers are too costly. John Lochren has installed a few logo-imprinted covers. While he promotes the applications in his brochure, the president of Solar Pool Enclosures of New York Inc. in Holbrook, N.Y., prefers to avoid the time-consuming installments.

“We need the exact artwork from the customer, and it can be a long process,” Lochren said. “It’s difficult to get the image right and exactly centered on the cover. We’re not used to dealing with that in our industry.

“It takes us into a different area that is more of a designer and art function than a cover installer function,” added Lochren, who also chairs the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals’ Service Education Committee.

As Lochren noted, there are drawbacks to custom covers, despite the high margins that can be generated. Installation of a cover with an intricate design can be delayed by up to two weeks. In addition, cover fabric faces by 5 to 10 percent each year, which means that eventually the artwork will be difficult to discern. As a result, some clients opt for more lasting features.

“We can upsell the logos on the covers, but when people want to spend more money, they decide to go for the waterfeatures,” said Don Ludlow, president of Dolphin Pools Inc. in Salt Lake City. “They want to see the pool with the cover off, not on. That’s when the pool is most beautiful.”

However, Ludlow has a custom design imprinted on the cover of his company’s showroom pool. “It s got a dolphin in the middle of it, the logo of our company, and it’s a great marketing tool,” he said. *****

COPYRIGHT 2005 Hanley-Wood, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2005 Gale Group