Amazon has launched a new business-to-business marketplace.
Called Amazon Business, the new service is intended to act as a one-stop shop for a company’s needs. The new operation is an expansion of, and replacement for, AmazonSupply, which was quietly started in 2012 and originally only sold lab equipment, janitorial cleaning chemicals and other office supplies.
At its peak, AmazonSupply featured more than 2.2 million products. Amazon Business is expected to offer hundreds of millions of SKUs that run the gamut from the original Supply products to tractors and industrial fryers.
Companies can register an Amazon Business account for free and will have access to business-only products with bulk discount and free two-day shipping on orders over $49.
“We’ve heard from business customers that they love the convenience of shopping online, and want an experience at work that is similar to how they shop at home,” said Prentis Wilson, vice president of Amazon Business, in a press release.
Single or multi-user accounts are available. The accounts offer the ability to manage who can spend money where with approval work flows.
Financial writers believe Amazon is attempting to break into the lucrative B2B market. According to Internet Retailer, 2014 was estimated to generate $1 trillion in business-to-business e-commerce sales compared with the business-to-consumer e-commerce market estimation of $263.3 billion.
While it may seem that pool and spa distributors would be the most affected by this development, they don’t see it that way.
“They’re certainly big and certainly good at what they do,” said Bill Kent, owner of HornerXpress. “I don’t know that they’re [going to] have an impact.”
Distributors such as his already offer services such as multiple locations and daily delivery to cancel out the benefits of purchasing online, he pointed out.
Manuel Perez De La Mesa, president/CEO of PoolCorp, took a different tack.
“It would be presumptuous on my part to rule them out or to acknowledge that they would be successful,” he said.
As Perez sees it, even without Amazon, the pressure is on distributors to adapt to the times. How can these companies grow and enhance their value to manufacturers and retailers?
That said, Perez added, “Amazon has hundreds of initiatives going at any one time. There’s something to be said for focus.”
Distributors may well have reason not to feel threatened. Several retailers didn’t even know that the new service existed. When the program was described to them, most didn’t seem that interested.
“I don’t see a need for us to really get involved with purchasing anything in the pool industry from Amazon,” said Terry Brown, vice president of Buddy’s Pools & Spas in Cockeysville, Md., and a former chairman of the board for the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals. “I don’t see that as a benefit at this point.”
Brown’s company buys locally through distribution. When it comes to the “non-pool industry stuff,” Buddy’s purchases from any number of office supply stores or box stores like Office Depot and Staples, he said.
Besides, he’s not too keen on sending business Amazon’s way. “They’re definitely changing the way products are offered,” Brown said. “We as an industry have to find a way to respond to that. ... That challenge has been going on for years.”
Amazon did not respond to a request for comments.