While internet dealers may conjure more negative characteristics of underbidding and unaccountability, a dedicated effort by manufacturers has kept robotics viable for traditional industry players. Using minimum advertised pricing (MAP), companies ensure that retailers can still get a piece of the pie. MAP regulates authorized dealers and keeps prices to a level where retailers can still see a profit.
Furthermore, retailers may even see an advantage in offering robotic cleaners, as Chinese manufacturers who offer more traditional cleaners have created products priced under $100, eroding any potential profit margin.
Though online prices may still be a bit cheaper, there are certain intangibles to create healthy competition.
“Is it that you’ll save $50 or is it you’d rather buy from someone who’s an authorized dealer…the guy you buy chemicals from and you can shake his hand,” says Gil Erlich, vice president of sales and marketing for Aqua Products in Cedar Grove, N.J. “Those variables will ensure the survival of brick-and-mortar retail.”
Some manufacturers will even create separate sales programs to differentiate between the two.
“We try to create OEM products with various features that will be exclusive to certain retailers or distributors so they can compete with the internet,” says Stephen Shulman, director of marketing for SmartPool in Lakewood, N.J.