At Latham Pools, a designer and manufacturer of in-ground swimming pools, the last decade has been bookended by traumatic events: the Great Recession and the coronavirus pandemic.
The former sent the longtime family-owned business to bankruptcy court after the housing market crashed and banks tightened lending – neither ideal for big-ticket pool purchases. But the company went into Chapter 11 with an exit strategy in hand, and emerged just a month later – in time for the industry’s important 2010 pre-season trade show.
In contrast, the pandemic delivered an unexpected boost to the outdoors sector of the economy, including pool-installers and the manufacturers, like Latham Pools, that supply them. One trade group indicated in February that the high demand for backyard pools seen in 2020 will continue this year, with installation dates already booked into late 2021 and early 2022.
Relatedly or not, two pool companies just dipped a toe into the public stock market, and Latham Pools is getting ready to do the same.
Leslie’s Inc., parent to spa and pool products retailer Leslie’s Swimming Pool Supplies, went public in October. Pool equipment manufacturer Hayward Pool Products did so last month.
Latham Pools, meanwhile, filed a registration statement with regulators last week with plans to offer and trade stock under the ticker symbol SWIM as Latham Group Inc.
While details on the offering remain to be worked out, Latham Group would operate as a “controlled company” under market rules because more than 50 percent of the voting power of its stock would be owned by two private equity firms with big stakes in the company, Pamplona Capital Management and Wynnchurch Capital. (A series of such firms has been involved since the company exited bankruptcy.)
Financial information that Latham Group filed with its registration statement indicates sales last year totaled $403.4 million, compared with nearly $318 million in 2019. Net income was close to $16 million last year, versus $7.5 million in 2019.
The company, founded in 1956 and headquartered off Northway Exit 5 in Latham, says it is the largest designer, manufacturer and marketer of in-ground residential swimming pools in North America, Australia and New Zealand – and the only coast-to-coast operator in the U.S. Pools represent about 60 percent of sales; liners and covers evenly split the remaining 40 percent.
The company touts its fiberglass pools as having “significant runway for growth” due to underpenetration in this country – just 18 percent of all U.S. installations last year were fiberglass versus 40 percent in Spain, for instance.
A chart in the registration statement compares the “homeowner economics” of the three main types of in-ground pools, with fiberglass costing some $54,000 up-front, vinyl at $37,500 and concrete at $75,000.
For installers, fiberglass is quicker to install and requires fewer laborers, allowing more installations per year and significantly more profit, Latham Group says.
Marlene Kennedy is a freelance columnist. Opinions expressed in her column are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. Reach her at [email protected]