Item 1A. Risk Factors
Cautionary Statement for Purposes of the “Safe Harbor” Provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995
Our disclosure and analysis in this report contains forward-looking information that involves risks and uncertainties. Our forward looking statements express our current expectations or forecasts of possible future results or events, including projections of earnings and other financial performance measures, statements of management’s expectations regarding our plans and objectives and industry, general economic and other forecasts of trends and other matters. Forward-looking statements speak only as of the date of this filing, and we undertake no obligation to update or revise such statements to reflect new circumstances or unanticipated events as they occur. You can identify these statements by the fact that they do not relate strictly to historic or current facts and often use words such as “anticipate,” “estimate,” “expect,” “believe,” “will likely result,” “outlook,” “project,” “should” and other words and expressions of similar meaning. No assurance can be given that the results in any forward-looking statements will be achieved and actual results could be affected by one or more factors, which could cause them to differ materially. For these statements, we claim the protection of the safe harbor for forward-looking statements contained in the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act.
Certain factors that may affect our business and could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed in any forward-looking statements include the following:
The demand for our swimming pool, irrigation and related outdoor lifestyle products may be adversely affected by unfavorable economic conditions.
Consumer discretionary spending affects our sales and is impacted by factors outside of our control, including general economic conditions, disposable income levels, consumer confidence and access to credit. In economic downturns, the demand for swimming pool, irrigation and related outdoor lifestyle products may decline, often corresponding with declines in discretionary consumer spending, the growth rate of pool eligible households and swimming pool construction. Maintenance products and repair and certain replacement equipment, which are required to maintain existing swimming pools, currently account for approximately 90% of net sales and gross profits related to our swimming pool business; however, the growth of this portion of our business depends on the expansion of the installed pool base and could also be adversely affected by decreases in construction activities, similar to the trends between late 2006 and early 2010. A weak economy may also cause consumers to defer discretionary replacement and refurbish activity. Even in generally favorable economic conditions, severe and/or prolonged downturns in the housing market could have a material adverse impact on our financial performance. Such downturns expose us to certain additional risks, including but not limited to the risk of customer closures or bankruptcies, which could shrink our potential customer base and inhibit our ability to collect on those customers’ receivables.
We believe that homeowners’ access to consumer credit is a critical factor enabling the purchase of new pools and irrigation systems. Between late 2006 and early 2010, the unfavorable economic conditions and downturn in the housing market resulted in significant tightening of credit markets, which limited the ability of consumers to access financing for new swimming pools and irrigation systems. Although we have seen improvement since 2010, tightening consumer credit could cause consumers to not be able to obtain financing for pool, irrigation and related outdoor projects, which could negatively impact our sales of construction-related products.
We are susceptible to adverse weather conditions.
Weather is one of the principal external factors affecting our business. For example, unseasonably late warming trends in the spring or early cooling trends in the fall can shorten the length of the pool season. Also, unseasonably cool weather or extraordinary rainfall during the peak season can decrease swimming pool use, installation and maintenance, as well as irrigation installations and landscape maintenance. These weather conditions adversely affect sales of our products. While warmer weather conditions favorably impact our sales, global warming trends and other significant climate changes can create more variability in the short term or lead to other unfavorable weather conditions that could adversely impact our sales or operations. Drought conditions or water management initiatives may lead to municipal ordinances related to water use restrictions, which could result in decreased pool and irrigation system installations and negatively impact our sales. For a discussion regarding seasonality and weather, see Item 7, “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations - Seasonality and Quarterly Fluctuations,” of this Form 10-K.
Our distribution business is highly dependent on our ability to maintain favorable relationships with suppliers.
As a distribution company, maintaining favorable relationships with our suppliers is critical to our success. We believe that we add considerable value to the swimming pool and irrigation and landscape supply chains by purchasing products from a large number of manufacturers and distributing the products to a highly fragmented customer base on conditions that are more favorable than these customers could obtain on their own. We believe that we currently enjoy good relationships with our suppliers, who generally offer us competitive pricing, return policies and promotional allowances. However, any failure to maintain favorable relationships with our suppliers could have an adverse effect on our business.
Our largest suppliers are Pentair Water Pool and Spa, Inc., Hayward Pool Products, Inc. and Zodiac Pool Systems, Inc., which accounted for approximately 20%, 10% and 8%, respectively, of the costs of products we sold in 2016. A decision by several suppliers, acting in concert, to sell their products directly to retailers or other end users of their products, bypassing distribution companies like ours, would have an adverse effect on our business. Additionally, the loss of a single significant supplier due to financial failure or a decision to sell exclusively to retailers or end-use consumers could also adversely affect our business.
We face intense competition both from within our industry and from other leisure product alternatives.
Within our industry, we directly compete against various regional and local distributors and indirectly, against mass market retailers, large pool or landscape supply retailers and internet retailers as they compete against our customers for the business of pool owners and other end-use customers. Outside of our industry, we compete indirectly with alternative suppliers of big ticket consumer discretionary products, such as boat and motor home distributors, and with other companies who rely on discretionary homeowner expenditures, such as home remodelers. New competitors may emerge as there are low barriers to entry in our industry. Given the density and demand for pool products, some geographic markets that we serve also tend to have a higher concentration of competitors than others, particularly California, Texas, Florida and Arizona. These states encompass our four largest markets and represented approximately 52% of our net sales in 2016.
More aggressive competition by store- and internet-based mass merchants and large pool or landscape supply retailers could adversely affect our sales.
Mass market retailers today carry a limited range of, and devote a limited amount of shelf space to, merchandise and products targeted to our industry. Historically, mass market retailers have generally expanded by adding new stores and product breadth, but their product offering of pool and irrigation and landscape related products has remained relatively constant. Should store- and internet-based mass market retailers increase their focus on the pool or irrigation and landscape industries, or increase the breadth of their pool and irrigation and landscape related product offerings, they may become a more significant competitor for our direct customers and end-use consumers which could have an adverse impact on our business. We may face additional competitive pressures if large pool or landscape supply retailers look to expand their customer base to compete more directly within the distribution channel.
We depend on our ability to attract, develop and retain highly qualified personnel.
We consider our employees to be the foundation for our growth and success. As such, our future success depends in large part on our ability to attract, retain and motivate qualified personnel. This includes succession planning related to our executive officers and key management personnel. If we are unable to attract and retain key personnel, our operating results could be adversely affected.
Past growth may not be indicative of future growth.
Historically, we have experienced substantial sales growth through organic market share gains, new sales center openings and acquisitions that have increased our size, scope and geographic distribution. Since the beginning of 2014, we have opened 13 new sales centers (net of sales center consolidations) and we have completed 8 acquisitions consisting of 21 sales centers (net of sales center consolidations within one year of acquisition). While we contemplate continued growth through internal expansion and acquisitions, no assurance can be made as to our ability to:
- penetrate new markets;
- generate sufficient cash flows to support expansion plans and general operating activities;
- obtain financing;
- identify appropriate acquisition candidates;
- maintain favorable supplier arrangements and relationships; and
- identify and divest assets which do not continue to create value consistent with our objectives.
If we do not manage these potential difficulties successfully, our operating results could be adversely affected.
Our business is highly seasonal.
In 2016, we generated approximately 63% of our net sales and 85% of our operating income in the second and third quarters of the year. These quarters represent the peak months of both swimming pool use, installation, remodeling and repair, and landscape installations and maintenance. Our sales are substantially lower during the first and fourth quarters of the year, when we may incur net losses.
The nature of our business subjects us to compliance with environmental, health, transportation and safety regulations.
We are subject to regulation under federal, state, local and international environmental, health, transportation and safety requirements, which govern such things as packaging, labeling, handling, transportation, storage and sale of chemicals and fertilizers. For example, we sell algaecides and pest control products that are regulated as pesticides under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act and various state pesticide laws. These laws primarily relate to labeling, annual registration and licensing.
Management has processes in place to facilitate and support our compliance with these requirements. However, failure to comply with these laws and regulations may result in the assessment of administrative, civil and criminal penalties or the imposition of injunctive relief. Moreover, compliance with such laws and regulations in the future could prove to be costly. Although we presently do not expect to incur any capital or other expenditures relating to regulatory matters in amounts that may be material to us, we may be required to make such expenditures in the future. These laws and regulations have changed substantially and rapidly over the last 25 years and we anticipate that there will be continuing changes.
The clear trend in environmental, health, transportation and safety regulations is to place more restrictions and limitations on activities that impact the environment, such as the use and handling of chemicals. Increasingly, strict restrictions and limitations have resulted in higher operating costs for us and it is possible that the costs of compliance with such laws and regulations will continue to increase. We will attempt to anticipate future regulatory requirements that might be imposed and we will plan accordingly to remain in compliance with changing regulations and to minimize the costs of such compliance.
We store chemicals, fertilizers and other combustible materials that involve fire, safety and casualty risks.
We store chemicals and fertilizers, including certain combustibles and oxidizing compounds, at our sales centers. A fire, explosion or flood affecting one of our facilities could give rise to fire, safety and casualty losses and related liability claims. We maintain what we believe is prudent insurance protection. However, we cannot guarantee that our insurance coverage will be adequate to cover future claims that may arise or that we will be able to maintain adequate insurance in the future at rates we consider reasonable. Successful claims for which we are not fully insured may adversely affect our working capital and profitability. In addition, changes in the insurance industry have generally led to higher insurance costs and decreased availability of coverage.
We conduct business internationally, which exposes us to additional risks.
Our international operations, which accounted for 8% of our total net sales in 2016, expose us to certain additional risks, including:
- difficulty in staffing international subsidiary operations;
- different political and regulatory conditions;
- currency fluctuations;
- adverse tax consequences; and
- dependence on other economies.
For foreign sourced products, we may be subject to certain trade restrictions that would prevent us from obtaining products and there is also a greater risk that we may not be able to access products in a timely and efficient manner. Fluctuations in other factors relating to international trade, such as tariffs, transportation costs and inflation are additional risks for our international operations.
We depend on a global network of suppliers to source our products. Product quality or safety concerns could negatively impact our sales and expose us to legal claims.
We rely on manufacturers and other suppliers to provide us with the products we sell and distribute. As we increase the number of Pool Corporation and PSL branded products we distribute, our exposure to potential liability claims may increase. The risk of claims may also be greater with respect to products manufactured by third-party suppliers outside the United States, particularly in China. Uncertainties with respect to foreign legal systems may adversely affect us in resolving claims arising from our foreign sourced products. Even if we are successful in defending any claim relating to the products we distribute, claims of this nature could negatively impact customer confidence in our products and our company.
We rely on information technology systems to support our business operations. Any disturbance or breach of our technological infrastructure could adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations. Additionally, failure to maintain the security of confidential information could damage our reputation and expose us to litigation.
Information technology supports several aspects of our business, including among others, product sourcing, pricing, customer service, transaction processing, financial reporting, collections and cost management. Our ability to operate effectively on a day to day basis depends on a solid technological infrastructure, which is inherently susceptible to internal and external threats. We are vulnerable to interruption by fire, natural disaster, power loss, telecommunication failures, internet failures, security breaches and other catastrophic events. Exposure to various types of cyber-attacks such as malware, computer viruses, worms, or other malicious acts, as well as human error, could also potentially disrupt our operations or result in a significant interruption in the delivery of our goods and services. Advances in computer and software capabilities, encryption technology and other discoveries increase the complexity of our technological environment, including how each interact with our various software platforms, and may delay or hinder our ability to process transactions and compromise the integrity of our data.
We have designed numerous procedures and protocols to mitigate cybersecurity risks. We continually invest in information technology security and update our business continuity plan. However, the failure to maintain security over and prevent unauthorized access to our data, our customers’ personal information, including credit card information, or data belonging to our suppliers, could put us at a competitive disadvantage, result in damage to our reputation and subject us to potential litigation, liability, fines and penalties, resulting in a possible material adverse impact on our financial condition and results of operations.
A terrorist attack or the threat of a terrorist attack could have a material adverse effect on our business.
Discretionary spending on leisure product offerings such as ours is generally adversely affected during times of economic or political uncertainty. The potential for terrorist attacks, the national and international responses to terrorist attacks, and other acts of war or hostility could create these types of uncertainties and negatively impact our business for the short or long term in ways that cannot presently be predicted.