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Monday, May 27, 2024

Hot Tub Growth Machine

The next chapter of the Jacuzzi Group, the famed manufacturer of hot tubs, spas, bathtubs and bathroom products, is being written in Orange County.

The iconic company—which owns the trademark to the eponymous Jacuzzi brand, and also owns Sundance Spas and ThermoSpas, among other wellness-focused lines, and with roots in Italy—recently moved its headquarters from Chino Hills to Irvine.

The company set up its executive offices at a roughly 14,000-square-foot space in the Intersect office campus in Irvine, at the corner of Main Street and Von Karman Avenue.

The new headquarters, about a mile away from John Wayne Airport, is the second property in the company’s OC portfolio. It also has a 7,000-square-foot retail store in Mission Viejo.

Jacuzzi will be keeping its nearly 350,000-square-foot regional manufacturing facility in Chino Hills, where it’s long been one of that city’s larger businesses.

Hiring Push

About 60 people are expected to relocate from the San Bernardino County location to the new Irvine spot, according to Chief Executive David Jackson.

The company is also on a local hiring push. It’s looking to add about 50 positions in the new Irvine office, particularly in IT, finance, sales, marketing and legal.

The new headquarters will shorten the commute for the majority of the company’s local personnel, who mostly reside in OC, company officials said. Chino Hills is about 35 miles from the new headquarters.

Company officials expect the move will draw interest from Orange County’s employee base.

Since moving to Irvine, “there’s been a transformation of interest” among potential talent, Chief Legal Officer Jason Weintraub said.

“The talent pool here is fantastic.”

2019 Buyout

The Irvine move comes amid a rapid period of growth for the business, which in early 2019 was acquired by an affiliate of Investindustrial, a large European investment firm, in a deal with Cleveland-based Nottingham Spirk Design Associates.

At the time of that deal, made on undisclosed terms, Jacuzzi’s annual revenue was around $500 million.

Since the sale, Jacuzzi has seen growth every year, and officials expect its fiscal 2022 revenue figures to be double what they were pre-sale, if not more.

Part of that growth is down to a series of acquisitions under the company’s new ownership group, and new product offerings, execs say.

In addition, the pandemic brought heightened demand for the company’s products from stuck-at-home customers.

Hot tub and pool sales nationally were up about 25% in 2020, and the industry’s growth has only continued to increase since then, according to data from the Pool & Hot Tub Alliance.

“In our [current] cultural moment of self-care and wellness, Jacuzzi has never been more relevant than it is now,” Weintraub told the Business Journal.

“People are trying to make their backyard a special place and an extension of their indoor space, especially as we had to live at home more frequently,” Jackson said.

“The two forces of the wellness trend and the outdoor living trend are really providing us with huge momentum.”

The global wellness market is valued at more than $1.5 trillion, with an annual growth of 5% to 10%, according to data from consulting firm McKinsey & Company.

The global outdoor furniture market last year was valued at $2 billion in 2021, with an expected annual growth rate of about 2.8%, according to Absolute Reports.

Manufacturing Challenges

Despite the supply chain issues and remote work obstacles Jacuzzi faced in the beginning of the pandemic, the company, with large manufacturing bases across the globe, grew its total employee count from about 2,500 to 5,000 over the past two years, officials said.

The company took an almost “SWAT team approach” to obtain hundreds of laptops and held daily crisis management meetings to adjust its employees to remote work, Jackson said.

“We’ve managed these incredible crises better than our competitors,” a group which includes Kohler-based Kohler Co., Vista-based Watkins Wellness and New York City-based American Standard, said Weintraub, who joined the company in late 2020. He previously counted legal positions at locally based El Pollo Loco Holdings Corp., Taco Bell Corp. and Broadcom, and in 2012 was recognized at the Business Journal’s General Counsel Awards.

Jackson joined Jacuzzi in 2019 after running Canada’s Hydropool Hot Tubs and Swim Spas, and was named CEO in mid-2020.

Beach Appeal

To retain and recruit employees, Jacuzzi, like many other companies, is prioritizing corporate wellbeing and work flexibility with its move to Intersect, which among other tenants holds the headquarters of fitness franchising company Xpotential Fitness Inc. (NYSE: XPOF).

“It was important we had a gym facility and fun, [collaborative] spaces here … to reengage our employees from the stay-at-home work life right now,” Jackson said.

Not only is the new headquarters convenient and attractive to the company’s potential and existing employees, but also to its main customer base: retailers.

“We do a lot of events and trainings with our B2B customers, and the office’s proximity to the airport is helpful for that,” Weintraub said.

Before the company moved its headquarters to Irvine, Jacuzzi’s retailers, excited to experience Southern California, would go to Chino Hills for training, VP of Marketing Tracine Marroquin said.

“That didn’t really meet all of their expectations.”

But, being near the beach, “this facility in Irvine gives us the ability to not only have those super productive trainings, but also to deliver everybody’s expectations about Southern California,” she said.

Riding the Wellness Wave

As trends in wellness and outdoor living continue to take off, the company is looking to potentially expand through the addition of massage chairs to its product line. It also  continues to look at potential M&A; candidates.

In 2020, Jacuzzi acquired Canada-based hot tub manufacturer Leisure Manufacturing Inc., the owner of opening price point brands Dream Maker and Sunrise Spas.

The acquisition “really rounded out the Jacuzzi portfolio from a pricing perspective,” Weintraub said.

A year later, the company acquired Tempe-based bath remodel company Baths for Less, which completes shower and bathtub replacements in about eight hours.

“M&A; activity will be a significant component of how we expand organic growth, our dealer network and even our direct-to-consumer business,” Weintraub said. 

The Jacuzzi Brothers

The road linking ancient hot tubs and modern spas “is a long and interesting one leading back to the Jacuzzi brothers,” Jacuzzi Group says on its website, on a page detailing the history of hot tubs and spas.

“After immigrating to California from Italy in the early 1900s, the Jacuzzi family initially made their living as inventors, designing advancements in aviation and water pumps for agricultural use,” specifically orange groves, the company says.

Their submersible pump, the first in the world and which pulled water from the ground was the first step that led them towards the company that now exists.

In the 1950s, a Jacuzzi family member developed rheumatoid arthritis, and in “an effort to reduce the pain associated with this child’s affliction, the Jacuzzi brothers used their knowledge of hydraulics to create a hydrotherapy pump, the J-300.

“This pump was portable and transformed any standard bathtub into a rejuvenating spa, launching the wellness industry,” the company said.

The company’s founding was in 1956. In 1968, Roy Jacuzzi “created the world’s first integrated whirlpool bath, called the Roman, featuring integrated jets with a 50-50 air-to-water ratio. As the years passed, the jetted bathtubs led way to the indoor-outdoor hot tub,” the company said.

The company now operates facilities across North America, Europe and South America with over 1 million square feet of manufacturing space. Its main European manufacturing facility is in northeastern Italy. No Jacuzzi family members currently work for the company, officials said.

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