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A nationwide chlorine shortage could take some fun out of the summer for pool owners and swimmers.
Supplies of chlorine tablets used to treat pools and hot tubs have been drying up — due a pandemic-related boom and a fire at a major chemical plant in Louisiana.
The massive blaze hit one of the country’s biggest suppliers of chlorine during Hurricane Laura in August, hampering manufacturing of the sanitizing tabs.
Surging demand for chlorine — caused by a spike in homeowners installing pools during the coronavirus pandemic — has also been worrying industry insiders.
Pool supply companies have been sounding the alarm about the shortage, which is beginning to show up in the marketplace.
B&B Pool and Spa Center, a Chestnut Ridge, New York-based retailer, warns on its website that the nationwide shortage of chlorine will likely last through the 2021 season.
“A steep price increase is likely. The extent of the chlorine shortage is still unknown,” the company said.
While it’s still early in the season, suppliers are advising pool owners to prepare now.
“That includes stocking up on chemicals needed to get you through the majority, if not the entire swimming season,” B&B Pool and Spa Center wrote.
Swim retailer PoolSupplyWorld suggests other options for keeping water clean, including switching to a saltwater system, or considering chlorine alternatives, such as an ozone generator, Bromine or mineral purifiers.
Liquid chlorine, which is more laborious than using the tablets, still appears widely available — and could also be a good option to avoid paying nearly double the standard rate for the tabs.
Peter Arven, CEO of Covington, Louisiana-based Pool Corp, a wholesale distributor of swimming pool supplies, said last month that prices for chlorine tablets were up about 60 percent.
He told investors that pool owners might get creative this summer about how to clean their pools, adding that “there’s no shortage of ways to sanitize the pool.” He said people might move to liquid products or a saltwater system, if they can get a hold of someone to install it.
Goldman Sachs analyst Kate McShane warned last week that prices are rising and are likely to remain high through peak pool season.
She said the cost of chlorine was up 37 percent in March compared with last year. She added that pool owners can expect to pay about 58 percent more for chlorine this summer than they did last year.
“Of the 26 pool shops we spoke to, 15 expressed uncertainty or doubt when asked about whether they will have enough chlorine for pool season,” McShane wrote in a note to clients.
“When asked about whether the cost and availability of chlorine have improved in the last month or so, several respondents noted that while the supply of chlorine has improved somewhat, cost has not.”
The shortage is beginning to hit corporate earnings, too. John Swygert, CEO of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania-based Ollie’s Bargain Outlet, which sells goods from houseware to sporting goods and pool supplies, said that all areas of its business are up as the economy recovers from the pandemic. But if there’s one area that “you had to say is worse, or a shortage, or a challenge, it’s one item: it’s pool chlorine.”
“Pool chlorine is not easy to get and there’s a chlorine shortage nationally that we’re all going to have to deal with,” Swygert said in March on the company’s fiscal fourth-quarter earnings call with investors.
Michael Egeck, CEO of Leslie’s, a Phoenix, Arizona-based pool supplies company, warned investors in February of “widespread industry shortages,” but added that Leslie’s has strong supply-chain relationships in place to help it weather the tight summer season.
“With regard to retail pricing, it is a fact that we are seeing increases across the industry,” he said.