Poolwerx expands in US, eyes Europe and Middle East

POOLWERX boss John O’Brien has found some unusual things at the bottom of the pool in his quarter of a century running what is now the world’s third-biggest pool maintenance company.

But the Brisbane-based company’s recent move into the lucrative US market has brought the company face-to- face with something they had never struck before.

“In Florida, we had to extract a baby alligator from one of our customer’s pools,” said Mr O’Brien, the Poolwerx founder and chief executive.

Alligators are not unusual discoveries in Florida swimming pools as the reptiles wander from their traditional home in the state’s wetlands to urban areas.

Fortunately encounters with scaly beasts are not slowing the pool maintenance company’s push into Florida and other sunbelt states such as California, Arizona and Nevada.

“We are targeting the rich and the hot areas, with a five-year plan to have 300 stores in the US,” said Mr O’Brien. “We have 19 outlets in the US now and aim to have 63 by next year.”

From one humble store 25 years ago, Mr O’Brien now manages a $100 million business that is also eyeing other overseas markets.

The company, which operates a chain of franchised stores and a fleet of mobile pool vans, has increased its market share in Australia over the past five years. Recently the company picked up the established franchisor of the year award and field manager award at the Franchise Council of Australia’s annual awards.

Mr O’Brien said that with the US pool maintenance industry largely run by small independent traders, Poolwerx’s franchise model was translating well in the world’s biggest economy.

“The industry is disorganised and there are large opportunities for a company like ours,” he said. “Of the 8000 pool stores in the US, 6000 are probably ‘mom and pop’ independents.”

According to IbisWorld, the US industry was hurt by the recession as homeowners started to clean their own pools and spas or missed pool treatment altogether. As the economy recovered, they now have less time to clean their pools and the industry has recovered.

IbisWorld said the $658 million pool and spa industry in Australia had been hit hard by drought and stringent water restrictions in previous years but was now growing.

Turbulent economic conditions and subdued consumer spending also hit demand during the drought. A typical pool owner spends between $25 and $50 a month on pool chemicals.

Poolwerx has just opened its 100th store in Australia. It’s a number that Mr O’Brien said would give the company a solid base from which to expand further into the domestic market.

“There are over 79,000 franchise stores operating in Australia but few of them are part of a chain of 100 stores or more,” he said. “Achieving this 100-store benchmark propels us into a different league now.”

Mr O’Brien said that during the global financial crisis pool construction in Australia slumped from 40,000 a year to 20,000. “That figure has now returned to about 30,000 a year,” he said.

Mr O’Brien said that with the company now generating more than $100 million in combined revenue globally, other markets were being looked at for expansion.

“We have our sights set on Europe as well as scoping out the market in South Africa and the UAE,” he said.

“Eventually we want to be in 15 countries around the world.”

 

Originally published by, Glen Norris on The Courier-Mail, on 4 November 2016

Blog Categories

Recent Posts

We All Win with Learn2Swim Poolwerx’ Learn2Swim Week returns nationwide for its eighth year 25 Sep - 3 Oct Tragically, in Australian 25 children under 5 lost their lives prematurely from drowning in Australia in the last year, a 108% increase on last year and a 9% increase on the 10-year average, with 8 of these incidents happening in swimming pools. In New Zealand, three children under the age of four lost their lives last year. This is why Poolwerx and Kids Alive are back again this year with Learn2Swim Week, offering free swimming lessons for children under five from Friday 25 September to Sunday 3 October, in an effort to reduce childhood drownings. Over the course of a week, swim schools across Australian and New Zealand will offer free swimming lessons to children under the age of five as part of the water safety initiative, with registrations still open for swim schools to sign up for the annual event. Despite water safety remaining top of mind for many families, new research from Poolwerx reveals around 15 percent of parents surveyed still know someone who had, or directly encountered, a near-drowning experience – highlighting the importance of teaching little ones basic water skills to make swimming safe and fun for parents and toddlers. Further, over 30 percent of parents whose children participated in Learn2Swim Week in 2020 enrolled their children in ongoing swim classes after the week was over2, highlighting the impact that Learn2Swim Week has on both children and the parents enrolling them. Ex-Olympian swimmer Libby Trickett, alongside former Australian Olympic swim coach and Kids Alive founder Laurie Lawrence, has partnered with Poolwerx to support the initiative, urging all parents to sign up for Learn2Swim Week this year and get their kids enrolled in lessons. Libby Trickett said, “As a mum myself, I’m really proud to be championing Learn2Swim Week for Poolwerx this year. I know just how important it is to develop swimming skills when you’re young, and really capitalise on the opportunities our beautiful climate gives us to enjoy time in the water here in Australia. Former All Blacks centre, now Crusaders and Wellington (NPC) Assistant Coach Tamati Ellison, has also partnered with Poolwerx to support the initiative, urging all parents to sign up for Learn2Swim Week this year and get their kids enrolled in lessons. “I’m really proud to be supporting Learn2Swim Week for Poolwerx this year. Growing up my siblings and I spent a lot of time around the water which helped us develop key swimming skills plus build amazing memories. Learning how to swim and feel confident in the water is important at all ages. For us Kiwis, it allows you to enjoy the New Zealand summer and keep whanau safe in and around the water,” says Tamati. “Tamaiti akoana ki Te kaukau, noho haumaru ki Te wai, Tau Ana. Okea ki a Urorotia ako ki Te kaukau I tenei rā (A person who learns to swim is safer in the water. Give it your best, learn to swim today),” he adds. Poolwerx COO Nic Brill reiterated Poolwerx’ commitment to water safety, encouraging parents to take advantage of these free classes. “Swimming is a way of life for most Kiwis and Aussies, but sadly we’re still seeing backyard drownings. That is why it is crucial to introduce kids to water safety as early as possible. As Australasia’s largest pool servicing brand, we feel that we have both an opportunity and a responsibility to promote safe water practices in our community,” Brill said. “Nearly 2.7 million Australians and 58,000 Kiwis live in a house with a swimming pool, and with people staying at home more over the last eighteen months through COVID, we know this number is rapidly increasing. That makes Learn2Swim Week an even more vital initiative, and one which we are proud to pioneer.” To locate your nearest participating swim school and sign up for a free class, visit www.learn2swimweek.com. Swim schools can still register to participate at www.learn2swimweek.com/register-your-pool/ [1]Royal Lifesaving Australia National Drowning Report 2021 [1]2020 Provisional Drowning Report [1]Independent study of 275 responses, carried out by Poolwerx
Important note on Covid-19 and our services Our mobile service is open. We are actively monitoring the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and following official Government guidelines. Our mobile service remains open across the country, and we will continue to act on official health advice. We all have a part to play to help reduce the spread of the virus, and we have put in place preventative measures for all our employees. We are increasing the frequency in which we disinfect commonly shared surfaces and are supplying our employees with hand sanitizers, disinfect wipes and sprays.