Internet sales are grabbing an ever-increasing percentage of pool and spa industry market share.
Not only are shoppers purchasing more pool-related products via the
Web, the number of online retailers serving the industry has also
risen sharply in the past several years, experts say. Some estimate
that Internet purchases of pool products have increased by as much
as 50 percent in the past 12 months.
Meanwhile, the range of products and parts customers are willing to
order online continues to broaden as well.
“We’ve seen the sales of the parts really skyrocket in
the last 24 months, for both pools and spas,” said Daniel
Harrison, president of Poolandspa.com Inc., an online retailer
based in Las Vegas. “And more customers are using the
Internet to buy products — like hot tubs — that very
few people would’ve bought online three or four years
This pressure has pushed an increasing number of brick-and-mortar
pool retailers to enter the online space. So far, these retailers
are using a mixed bag of expansion strategies, from dipping their
toe into e-commerce all the way to building massive Websites.
Most local pool retailers expanding into online sales have chosen
to differentiate their brick-and-mortar presence from their
Internet brand, and many are using separate DBAs for the businesses
associated with their Websites.
“Our online business has a number of different partners and
investors, and it was started after our brick-and-mortar
store,” said Dennis Marunde, president of Pools.com and
Arvidson Pools & Spas in Crystal Lake, Ill. “It uses a
completely different name, and is marketed separately.”
Managerial reasons aside, many brick-and-mortar retailers are
realizing that branding strategies developed in and for their local
markets aren’t as well adapted for an Internet presence.
While personal-name recognition and hometown atmosphere may create
loyal customers for a physical store, these attributes often
translate poorly to the online marketplace, where professionalism
and authority typically make a better impression on potential consumers.
But less recognized, sources throughout the industry add, is the
flipside of this trend toward online shopping. As a growing group
of Internet-savvy customers realize they miss some benefits of
buying locally — such as face-to-face interaction and instant
access to purchases — many have begun using the Internet
specifically to seek out local brick-and-mortar retailers, both for
their expertise, and for purchases of products they want to use
“We’re seeing an increase in local customers who are
purchasing on the Internet, and wanting to come to our
brick-and-mortar headquarters to pick [their purchase] up,”
Marunde said. “I’ve noticed that really taking off in
the last 18 months.”
Marunde added that his company is currently working to set up a
nationwide online purchase referral network, which will refer
online shoppers to local merchants when they prefer to pick up a
If this indeed proves to be a growing consumer tendency, and if
robust referral networks become a reality, brick-and-mortar
retailers may have a new set of reasons to take heart.