Online giant Amazon has boosted its presence in the pool and spa market.
Since 2004, the products have been sold on Amazon, mostly by third-party retailers who used the site as a sort of hub, but fulfilled orders themselves. This summer, Amazon expanded the number of goods it sells on its own.
“We aim to offer customers everything they are looking to buy online,” said Matthew Dean, director of the Seattle-based firm’s Tools & Home Improvement store. “We learned that customers are looking for selection and value in pool products, so we have built offerings based on their feedback.”
Amazon has added to its lines of chemicals, automatic pool cleaners, cleaning tools, pumps, filters, heaters, toys, slides and diving boards. The company declined to reveal exactly how many products it now offers, but did say they number in the thousands.
The retailer also would not discuss its delivery methods, but industry insiders said orders will be fulfilled by pool and spa distributors throughout the country.
Those most immediately affected should be existing Internet retailers, according to Manuel J. Perez de la Mesa, president/CEO of PoolCorp in Covington, La.
“The difference between Amazon and JohnDoePoolSupply.com is that Amazon already has existing traffic and a certain brand awareness,” he said. “There are consumers … already shopping on the Internet who will feel comfortable buying from an Amazon, albeit at a modestly higher price, than they will at a site they’re not familiar with.”
Perez de la Mesa said his company has not been approached by Amazon.
Retailers are closely watching the Fortune 500 company, which claims to serve more than 94 million active customers.
“There are dozens of guys on the Internet from the pool industry, but for some reason, this Amazon move has a lot of people stirred up,” said one industry insider who wished to remain anonymous. “Amazon is not from the pool industry. That’s the big wrinkle. And they’re potentially a game changer. If we look out 10 years, what percentage of the business is going to be Amazon vs. everybody else? It could be quite a bit.”
Still, some think Amazon doesn’t pose the type of threat that could significantly affect their businesses. For one, the clientele may be different.
“I’d be naïve to say that it won’t have any impact,” said Brenda Murr, vice president of Mermaid Pool, Spa & Patio in Anderson, Ind. “But people come to us because we have the expertise. … I don’t think anybody will go to Amazon for expertise.”
Manufacturers and distributors now working with Amazon expressed concern over possible backlash from the industry. But they insist the company is a genuine vendor.
“They’re just as much a legitimate retailer as any Internet retailer that we’re doing business with,” said the head of one distribution company that was approached by Amazon.
That outlook should translate into equal footing on all fronts, added the distributor, who wished to remain anonymous: “They will be buying at the same price that we sell to our local dealers and other Internet retailers. We have not given them any special pricing, and we don’t intend to.”