You can also listen to the interview in the audio version.
Last year, the new pool was waiting for half a year. Now the applicant will get it in a month. This is due not only to larger stocks of materials, but also to demand, which fell slightly after the outbreak of war in Ukraine.
“She will not. If you had invited me three months back, I would have told you at the beginning of February that another record year awaited us, and the numbers really matched that. But then the conflict in Ukraine began and it shuffled the cards a bit, “says Albixon boss Zdeněk Vosolsobě, adding that this year the company will produce between two and three thousand pools and expects sales to fall to 1.6 billion. Despite the fact that on average today the pool costs ten percent more than last year. The reason is the large German market, where people have not been so interested in swimming pools since the beginning of the conflict.
How long before I get the pool if I order it today?
The situation has improved slightly and stabilized. You can get it in one to two months today.
Last year, waiting times were longer – what is it when material is missing?
We have them. Due to the fact that we had enormous problems with demand last year, we have prepared much better for this year. But we must separate the pools from the roof. The demand for roofing is still high.
And how long will I wait there?
Three to four months.
Maintaining current prices was unrealistic
But how much will I pay for the pool compared to last year?
It was unrealistic to keep the current prices. It’s a little frustrating for us – we plan a year, we think we’re doing everything right, we also have some reserves, due to the turbulent times. In the end, gas will increase your price by one hundred percent and aluminum will run out by tens of percent.
One hundred percent increase in gas prices is even better today….
That was more of a framework. It changes from week to week. But if we took the average pool today compared to last year, we would have to increase it by ten percent.
So how much does such an average pool cost now?
Today we are talking about a swimming pool with technology around 200 thousand crowns. To that I would add the roofing, that is another hundred to one hundred and fifty thousand.
So an investment of 350 thousand? Aren’t you afraid that people will start saving now and stop buying such expensive pools?
There are two perspectives on this: One of them is whether the Czechs will not cut the pool first, because it is a necessary investment. But then there is the second view that customers prefer so far. They take the pool as an investment. Investing in health – today is the trend of hardening and swimming…
But maybe people will not have 350 thousand to afford this investment…
Then there is another factor. The pool will increase the value of the property, which can be interesting nowadays – not everyone has 3-5 million to buy an investment apartment, but a lot of people can have a few hundred thousand.
So will it be another group of people?
I do not think so. The Czechs are very conservative in investment, real estate is still a priority for them.
I would expect a record year in early February. Not anymore
How many people bought the pool last year and how many bought it this year?
Last year, we made just over three thousand pools. It was a record year for us in all monitored indicators. We expect a small decline this year, but we will still be between two and three thousand pools.
So interest is falling and there will not be so many applicants?
It won’t. If you had invited me three months back, I would have told you at the beginning of February that another record year awaited us, and the numbers really matched that. But then came the conflict in Ukraine, and it shuffled the cards a bit.
And if we meet here in the next three months, won’t the decline be even greater?
It’s very difficult to estimate. We work two to three months in advance today. So far, the demand persists. Especially in the Czech Republic, we have demand as last year. The change is more abroad, where the decline is slightly higher.
How do you explain that?
I attribute this to the fact that Czechs like to invest in their real estate. Abroad, the investment portfolio of families is much more diverse. They are far beyond that and do not have such a connection to the real estate that we like to cultivate.
A record year in all directions
Last year you made more than three thousand pools, what does that record mean financially?
We will report sales of 1.8 billion, which is more than a 20 percent increase for us compared to 2020.
EBITDA also increased – even more so. We will report around 350 million.
And for this year, are you counting on what numbers, now probably other than at the beginning of the year?
We really worked with others – very similar to last year. Today, we think we are heading somewhere between 1.6 and 1.7 billion.
Warehouses higher by hundreds of millions
You said you didn’t miss the material. How much have you expanded your inventory?
This is something that was an absolute reality last year and at the beginning of the year. Our strategy is to buy a lot in advance and make room for a possible reaction – if a supplier does not supply us with something, we have a month to three to react elsewhere. We increased stocks by tens to hundreds of millions.
But now that interest is declining, don’t you have too much money in your inventory? Won’t that slow you down?
Of course, it would be ideal to have almost no money in stock and work in some “just in time” model. At this time, however, it would be minimally risky.
How long can you still grow in the Czech Republic? When will the market fill up when many people already have a pool?
I get this question quite often. But it probably won’t be. They are still being built, there are still a large number of people who have an above-ground pool and will eventually find that the buried one is better. New factors that we talked about also appeared – investments in health and real estate.
So are you not afraid that the potential of the Czech market will soon be exhausted?
What I am in the company, which has been today for 13 years, the market is very stable. The big fluctuations we make are mainly on exports.
We are trying to get to the Spanish market
Where is this fluctuation the biggest? Is it Germany?
A lot of Germany, it’s that in absolute value it’s the biggest market for us. So we targeted Germany a lot. But it is also the north, France and other countries.
Will you be adding new markets? Is this a good time now?
We are trying to succeed in the Spanish market.
Aren’t there pool manufacturers there?
They are, but we try to succeed there, especially with a roof. This is our number one export product.
But aren’t you losing competitiveness in exports? After all, transport has become significantly more expensive…
This is especially true for swimming pools, where they usually pay – what a truck, a swimming pool. We have export packaging for roofing. We then load 15-20 of them on the truck and the logistics are not such a significant expense.
New opportunities, new fields
When you say that Czechs will continue to invest in swimming pools, but will they not invest in cheaper ones? There are cheaper companies on the market than yours.
They certainly exist. We can at least talk about above-ground pools, but I think that the Czech market is maturing in this. Just like abroad.
And what about whirlpools. You don’t have them in your assortment, but isn’t it even more attractive today than swimming pools?
It is similar. The boom was in the pools and hot tubs. Overall an outdoor home. We don’t have hot tubs at the moment, we are considering whether to go in that direction again. We used to offer them, but gradually we focused more on swimming pools, which led us to those successful numbers in recent years.
White color and salt is the basis
What are the trends in swimming pools today?
A year or two back, I would say that they are different in our exports and in our country, but it has been terribly deleted. During the covid, the differences disappeared and people demand the same. The pool in the Czech Republic and Germany is identical – down to the level of colors and shapes. That’s a little simplistic.
It is because Czech pools and roofing – and now I do not mean only ours, but in general – have respect in Europe, and thus we can adapt the market and dictate trends a bit.
And if I wanted to have a super trendy pool?
This year and last year, the top seller is a white swimming pool with an overflow grid. Salt water treatment is the absolute standard and roofing today. This is the best selling.
What are you planning in the near future?
We are trying to expand our portfolio and thus increase the complexity for our customers in what we can supply them. We’re heading to the gardens.
Whirlpools and swimming pools
Most manufacturers and retailers reported great interest in swimming pools and whirlpools last year. Their sales grew by tens of percent.
The largest sellers of swimming pools and whirlpools in the Czech Republic: Albixon, Mountfield, Marimex, USSPA
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