Retail giant Leslie’s Poolmart is expanding its presence in the Lone Star State.
The Phoenix-based firm has acquired Warehouse Pools , which has 24 retail stores in south Texas. The deal was finalized on Dec. 31.
Warehouse, a family-owned company in business since 1982, serves a number of larger markets, including Houston metro, Austin and San Antonio.
Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
“We’re really excited about the acquisition,” said Larry Hayward, Leslie’s chairman/CEO. “It was no small task, but it will fit really well with our business model. We’ve really admired the people and teams they have put together in their stores, how they go to market and how they take care of the customer, so it’s a natural fit as we grow our business.”
Executives of Warehouse Pools also are excited about the transition.
“We’ve known Leslie’s for many years and respect that they, too, are committed to quality, value and outstanding customer service,” said John Andrews, president of Warehouse Pools in Houston. “I believe that our teams’ strengths will be complementary to the combined businesses.”
As part of the sale, the Andrews family has exited the company. However, the approximate 260 Warehouse employees have been added to the Leslie’s staff, which includes upwards of 4,000 during the busy season.
While the fate of the staff is certain, how Leslie’s will bring the Warehouse brand into its fold is still unclear.
“They have some great products and so we need to be thoughtful as we work through those decisions because they have a really good brand, too,” Hayward explained. “We are doing a complete evaluation of their product line. The goal is to offer consumers the best things, be open-minded and end up with the best of both worlds. In the end, it’s a really great problem to have.”
The deal also included the warehouse and corporate offices of Ram Chemical and Supply , which manufactures pool and spa chemicals. This, too, will be examined before Leslie’s determines how best to move forward with those products. In the meantime, operations will function as normal, Hayward said.
Texas now is host to 171 Leslie’s stores, more than any other state in the United States. The region serves as an ideal location for growth, Hayward said, and the company anticipates opening an additional nine locations there in 2013. All told, Leslie’s plans to open at least 50 stores this year, though their exact locations were not disclosed. The firm also will add two commercial centers to the existing 30.
The agreement also marks the retailer’s fourth acquisition in just over two years.
In 2012, Leslie’s bought six retail outlets from the Phoenix construction firm Shasta Pools & Spas , a Pool & Spa News Top Builder. Additionally, it opened 63 new stores last year.
The year prior, the company grew its commercial assets with the acquisition of Phoenix-based Jasper’s Clear Water Pool Wholesale Supply Co. And in 2010, it took over the Austin-area retailer Solutions by Self Chem . This expansion was made possible, in part, thanks to funds from the London-based private equity firm CVC Capital Partners , which purchased an undisclosed amount of Leslie’s minority shares in 2010.
While some industry members have expressed frustration over the company’s aggressive expansion, others view Leslie’s in a more positive light.
“Leslie’s has a good program, plan and structure,” said Penny Johnson, whose firm, Johnson Pools & Spa s, sits a mere 2½ miles from a Leslie’s store. “They are part of the industry and not the enemy,” added the Huntsville, Ala.-based dealer.
By opening additional stores throughout the country, Johnson believes Leslie’s is providing consumers with even more brick-and-mortar alternatives to shopping online. In fact, she said, it’s a lack of professionalism that hurts the industry, and Leslie’s has done a good job of upholding a high standard. Plus, some retailers are still operating the way they did 20 years ago, and that approach won’t work in this economic climate and age of technology.
“You have to realize it could be anyone who moves into your territory; it doesn’t have to be a Leslie’s,” she said. “The difference is, they have the processes, procedures, structure and store hours to meet consumer demand, and that is the real threat. If you are up to speed in your own industry and not just understand, but actually utilize, the opportunities available, like social media, you will survive.”
Founded in 1963 as a one-man pool supply operation in a suburb of Los Angeles, Leslie’s now operates more than 770 retail and commercial service stores in 35 states.