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SPN celebrates 50 years side by side with the industry
Swimming Pool News magazine has, down the years had a few names… and a few more owners but it has always offered something unique…

It remains the only publication to have stood side by side with the swimming pool and spa industry through its good times and difficult times – in fact for 50 years.

In that time the industry has been through two or three recessions, some boom years of growth and expansion, changing technology, more sophisticated marketing, takeovers, new products, the arrival of the hot tub market, increased competition, but the magazine has kept pace with all the demands.

Fifty years ago the magazine looked very different supporting a very young, low profile industry where marketing was hardly being considered and the product choice was very restricted.

Magazine publishers Clarke & Hunter based in Guildford, Surrey took the first step to enter the market place with a trade publication called Swimming Pool Review. The company had a portfolio of business and technical titles and was interested in the technical and engineering aspects of the business.

The title was was not A4, but in a smaller format and in black and white.

Martin Harris, a Guildford historian says the company might not have had great expectations when they started with a first issue.

"They were keen to try news things and get a lead in new markets but not much was known about the swimming pool market. It was very small but it was a specialist market. There were very few advertisers and marketing was basic but there was a lot of interest in the technical side of swimming pools, in how they were built and how technology might change and that is where they saw the opportunity. I think they also knew that if it didn't work out they could close it quickly."

The advertising base in the early days had no heat pumps no pool covers no spas and was a magazine for local and national pool builders – with some emphasis on basic water treatment.

In the early 1960s the emphasis – editorially was on all the technical aspects of the industry – 'Design – Construction – Maintenance' was to remain the editorial focus for the next 20 years.
It remained a quarterly title reflecting how limited the market was.

In 1970 Clarke & Hunter's business was taken over by Penrose & Co. With the change in ownership came the switch to a new name for the magazine – Swimming Pool.

The two key figures in the publication during the 1970s were editor Michael Cope but in particular Michael Seymour at that stage advertisement manager.

Half way through the 1970s the editorial content was based still on technical articles informing readers about heat recovery; the versatility of concrete and even then the future of solar energy. Trade shows were starting to get coverage especially in the United States where the market was booming and this side of the Atlantic there were real hopes of a rapid market expansion.

The advertising base was still engineering and pool builders but pool covers, 'debris covers' started to enter the market. New for 1977 was the Fairlocks Pool Vacuum Heads!

And in 1977 colour front cover and colour ads started to appear but it would be some time before editorial made a colour appearance.

It was Michael Seymour who became the long term figurehead of the publication as advertising manager and then in a publishers role as into the 80s the first signs of hot tub and spa advertising started – more importantly then perhaps the development of a wider range of pool accessories for the industry.

In 1990 the magazine was then taken over by M.G.S Publishing and the name change then was the final one to Swimming Pool News.

A new larger A4 format, more colour, and after the tough years of the early 1980s the advertising base expanded and attracted others and Swimming Pool News lost its exclusive place in the industry as competition came into the market.

More recently the title moved to Market Link Publishing and Archant before moving to its new owners Go Publishing in 2005.

Co-publisher Tony Weston, who has been associated with the title for 10 years as publisher and, more recently, co-owner said; "Swimming Pool News has always had a fantastic reputation and strong standing in the industry.

It has adapted to many changes and proved to be as irrepressible and steadfast as the industry itself. We can look forward to another 50 years with a strong base of readers and a resilient advertising base. We thank readers, advertisers and contributors for making Swimming Pool News the magazine it is today and will be in the future."

1959 – Designs were basic: the choice limited but an industry was up and running
In 1959 a fledgling swimming pool industry in Britain was looking to persuade a small but very enthusiastic group of customers. They were setting a trend by investing in a swimming pool.

Designs were basic, the profile of the industry was low. There wasn't a great deal of choice. The companies which were pioneering the industry traded with very small customer lists.

And when it came to advertising and promotion the industry was to say the least off the pace.
But it had one or two things going for it.

Swimming pools were being seen for the first time as a status symbol. Hot tubs were a thing very much for the future and the vast majority of pools were outdoor and unheated.

The average cost of a home was £24,000 and a new car could be yours for £400 or £500.

The good news for the young trade was there was a Conservative Government in place. It was two years earlier when the Prime Minister Harold Macmillan had told the country: "You’ve never had it so good."

He was addressing a large meeting of Conservatives in Bedford when he made his point clear: "Go around the country, go to the farms and you will see a state of prosperity such as we have never had in my lifetime – nor indeed in the history of this country," he said.

"Indeed let us be frank about it - most of our people have never had it so good."

As for the Conservatives, at the next general election after Macmillan's speech, in October 1959, they gained their highest ever vote (13,749,830), and increased their majority from 58 to 100. Labour was kept out of office until 1964, by which time the Conservatives had formed the government for 13 years.

The impact of the Conservative Government meant there was confidence about spending to build asset value – and enjoyment. The early outdoor swimming pools did exactly that – added a touch of glamour.

Much of the trade took its ideas and inspiration from the United States. A small number of specialist pool companies were already pool businesses in 1959.  In the early years in-ground swimming pool kits were made of wood and vinyl.

In the United States the industry was developing fast and already had a very active and ambitious trade association, NSPI. It was developing products and parts, new designs and running influential advertising and promotional campaigns.

In 1959, United States Patent No4195622 was applied for which typified the changes the industry was about ready to experience.

"A swimming pool cover having at least a portion of which is made of material allowing solar energy to pass through co-acts with a solar heating mat in the pool to retain heat developed by the mat. The dark-coloured mat has a specific gravity sufficiently greater than that of water to allow the mat to sink to the bottom of the pool. A stop member positioned adjacent the edge of the marginal portion of the cover is engageable with weighted members and the weighted members are engageable with an abutment member positioned on the deck of the pool after moving a predetermined distance which locks the cover in position after allowing limited movement of the cover."

To read the full feature as published in the October 2009 edition, please click on the virtual edition in the left hand column or click here

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