Pool fun: Lonza has about 15 lifestyle images showing the fun of pool ownership that dealers can use for counter or product displays, graphics in the store or window wraps.
Lonza Pool fun: Lonza has about 15 lifestyle images showing the fun of pool ownership that dealers can use for counter or product displays, graphics in the store or window wraps.

As competition from Internet retailers grows more fierce and worrisome for specialty pool retailers, store owners are gaining more support.

Covington, La.-based PoolCorp has a retail division that helps stores create new layouts and designs, but now the megadistributor is taking that program one step further with planograms: a diagram of the placement of products on the shelves where they’ll win the most sales.

Planograms have been used in the grocery industry for decades.

“The grocery store really doesn’t dictate what they carry,” said Ted Lawrence, retail category manager for PoolCorp. “We’re going to bring this [concept] to the swimming pool industry, and it’s going to be measurable.”

PoolCorp can put a planogram of maintenance equipment and accessories in a store and, by analyzing sales from retailers, can determine the top sellers by the different regions in the U.S. and produce a heat map of best shelf placement.

The upcoming PoolCorp Retail Summit in January will showcase a mock store, but everything in it — from chemicals to toys and games and spas and grills — will have a plan attached to it based on the number of sales in the PoolCorp system.

“In the past, I feel like even if we chose the right selection, the execution of getting the product up on the wall basically fell by the wayside,” Lawrence said. “Now, with the planogram, we’re providing solid sales history on products that sell, products that make our retailers profit and high margins, and now we can give them a map so any one of their employees can be a merchandising genius.”

The retail division already has started implementing planograms in stores and will customize them for retailers as needed.

But PoolCorp isn’t the only one upping its offerings to retailers. Lawrenceville, Ga.-based BioLab is helping retailers with template design, technology and vendor services via its BioGuard Store Design Program.

“The benefit, from the dealer’s point of view, is [that] they don’t have to create; they have to execute,” said Scott Newton, director of business development at BioLab. For most retailers, the enjoyment of their work is running the store — or executing the plan — not analyzing the point-of-sale system for trends, reimagining their space and redecorating.

Every bit of help, well, helps, said Lana Carr, owner of Carr Pools & Spas in Broken Arrow, Okla.

“It’d be great to have someone come in and say we could do this, this and this,” she said of her store. Carr recently attended Lawrence’s education session at the International Pool | Spa | Patio Expo in Orlando, Fla., to get ideas to spruce up the retail location. But attending sessions isn’t the same as having a consultant come to a store and make customized suggestions.

In the past, Carr has taken advantage of the programs offered through manufacturers and distributors. Her store is in a strip mall, and the city regulates the use of outside signage. To help bring attention to her storefront, she had her eight large front windows wrapped in vinyl with assistance from BioGuard.

“We used our co-op [funds] with them to do that,” she explained.

Making the retail area more exciting and gaining customer attention was part of what prompted Atlanta-based Lonza to introduce a retail lifestyle graphics program last year for its dealers. The image library has about 15 images that dealers can use for wall graphics, signage, vinyl window wraps and posters.

“It was all about ‘How can we bring the fun back in?’” said Gigi Carder, key account manager at Lonza. Carder consults with the retailers for the best use of the graphics, but also offers assistance with layout, color schemes and general setup. ClearCare program dealers used their rewards funds to pay for the graphic materials, but there’s no charge for Carder’s time and advice.

Approximately 150 dealers have worked with Lonza for the graphics displays, which are mostly focused on the water lab and chemical areas, but can be brought into any area of the store.

One of the main goals is to help store owners appeal to their customers. “People want to be reminded of the joy they had when they bought the pool,” Carder said.