The Clorox Co., maker of the iconic brand of household bleach, will be introducing a line of pool and spa care products.
The Oakland, Calif.-based producer of diverse consumer goods ranging from its well-known bleach and cleaning products to cat litter, charcoal, dressings and sauces, clearly plans to leverage its brand equity. “Since there are no comprehensive, fully assorted pool and spa care programs with a national consumer brand in the marketplace, Clorox saw a niche market to enter as a trusted premium brand,” said Rhonda Ramlo, The Clorox Co.’s vice president-general manager of partnerships, strategy and growth. “We believe it will be attractive to retailers and compelling to consumers.”
The company has partnered with KIK Custom Products, a Toronto-based maker of household cleaners, pool and spa treatment products and pharmaceuticals. KIK entered the pool and spa market in 2011 when it purchased Chem Lab Products and its Kem-Tek line, sold mostly in mass merchant settings. The Clorox line will be represented by KIK’s subsidiary, Easy 1 2 3 Pool Care.
“KIK has pool and spa care capabilities; Clorox has an iconic national brand,” said Doreen Gormley, KIK’s senior vice president of business development. “KIK’s category experience enables fast speed to market and allows Clorox to continue focusing its internal resources on other priorities.”
The companies are not discussing the kind of retailers they will court or what products the line will include. They have indicated the target consumers are do-it-yourselfers, and that accessories will be offered.
Part of its strategy, Clorox said, is “simplifying assortment and purchase decisions.”
Given Clorox’s brand recognition, observers expect the line to sell through mass merchants. It’s difficult to foresee the brand’s impact on the industry, especially given the scant information available. However, pool and spa professionals expect any disruption to be concentrated among other producers selling via mass merchants and similar channels.
“I don’t think it changes the dynamic,” said Jeff Fausett, president/CEO of Las Vegas-based buying group Aquatech Corp. “The consumer who buys from mass merchants couldn’t care less what the brand is. [But] if it’s sitting next to Murphy’s chlorine, they’re going to buy Clorox.”
The new brand won’t cause buying behaviors to change for those accustomed to purchasing through independent retailers, some believe. Smaller brick-and-mortar operators are more worried about whether and when the manufacturers they partner with will make overtures to the big boxes.
“It doesn’t concern me any more than what goes on today,” said Calvin Boothby, owner of Redlands Pool & Spa Center Inc. in Redlands, Calif. “Loyalty is not like it used to be. We test probably 5,000 to 6,000 water [samples] a year, and out of that we probably sell chemicals to 3,000 people. Customers are going to do what they want.”
Manuel Perez de la Mesa, CEO of Covington, La.-based PoolCorp, does see Clorox having at least an indirect impact on independents. Some consumers don’t purchase at the larger chains because they don’t recognize the brands and feel more comfortable consulting with a specialty retailer. “If that mass merchant has Clorox, they would be more inclined to buy it,” Perez said.
For one retailer, the main worry is consumer confusion. “My first concern is that customers might go back to assuming they can put Clorox [bleach] in their pools, which we try to educate them [against],” said Susie Hoskins, co-owner of Olympia Pools in Fort Wayne, Ind.
If the Clorox brand is meant for independent brick and mortars, retailers don’t see a lot of their brand-loyal peers switching. “We spend a lot of money promoting [our current] brand; we have co-op advertising from those nationally known companies ...,” said Penny Johnson, vice president of Johnson Pools & Spas in Huntsville, Ala. “For the dealer base, it would be very difficult. ...”
An exception, others suggest, might be the segment of independents who stock their shelves based solely on price.
The Clorox Co. reports it generated revenues of $5.6 billion in fiscal year 2013. It manufactures in more than two dozen countries and markets its goods in more than 100.