Chemical manufacturer BioLab has begun a minimum advertised price
program for dealers selling its BioGuard and SpaGuard lines of
MAPs, which establish the lowest price at which products can be
advertised, have been discussed with increasing frequency in recent
years as brick-and-mortar retailers experience competitive pressure
from online businesses.
Proponents of the measure hope this kind of regulation would
minimize price undercutting. Currently, some brick-and-mortar
establishments, and even distributors, report seeing Websites sell
at prices equal to, or lower than, their own wholesale rates.
BioLab’s MAP policy took effect Nov. 4 and applies to all
U.S. dealers, brick-and-mortar or Internet, and across all
advertising media, including Websites, Internet auctions, print,
mailers or broadcast ads.
“This was driven by our customers,” said Charlie
Schobel, BioLab vice president/general manager. “They said,
‘We’re feeling the pressure.’ We realized that we
need to protect our brand and make sure that it continues to have
BioLab is the first known American pool and spa chemical company to
implement a MAP program, and the largest manufacturer to mandate
minimums for its entire line. Some smaller producers have similar
programs, while a few larger manufacturers apply MAPs, but only to
For some, the new MAP program was welcome news. “This should
bring up the level to where competition is [equal across the
board,” said Steve Ames, owner of Academy Pool and Spa in
Riverside, Calif. “If a product is online and everybody knows
what the price is, then your customer is not going to beat you up
because they just saw it [for less].”
MAP policies just stipulate the minimum rate at which items can be
advertised, not sold, Ames added. So he still has the option to
offer special discounts to preferred customers or as part of
But other professionals don’t like MAP in general. “The
independent [dealer] loses their ability to use any kind of [price]
promotions,” said Keith Ainsworth, co-owner of Nationwide
Pool Supply in Las Vegas.
Some also believe that MAP programs specifically target and even
discriminate against online retailers. They also say such plans do
not motivate brick-and-mortar establishments to streamline or
invest in systems that make companies more efficient.
“Manufacturers shouldn’t protect inefficient
dealers,” Ainsworth said.
Regardless of their philosophical bent, many will be watching how
successfully BioLab can police the new program.
“[Enforcement] is the problem with MAP pricing,” said
Dan Harrison, president of Poolandspa.com, a Las Vegas-based online
retailer. “What if Joe Blow starts selling a bottle of
algaecide for less than the [MAP price]? How is BioLab going to
find that out? And if they do find out, how are they going to stop