Distributors are not exempt from current pressures to innovate. In fact, that particular truth crosses industry lines. The need to redefine what it means to be a distributor – regardless of the industry – was explained by Patrick Larmon at the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors’ Executive Summit.

“This reimagining must go beyond old-school ‘right time, right place, right price’ thinking,” he said in his chairman’s address last year. “This is a minimum in today’s distribution world just to be eligible to be in the arena and play the game. Rather, we must contemplate how we go to market in terms that are ‘innovation-driven.’ ”

Distributors of all kinds, across all industries, are feeling the same pressures, Larmon said. He spoke of “unrelenting, competitive pressure from all directions … be it the pressure to perform that comes with the ongoing consolidation of our vendors and customers, or the pressure from new, powerful and deep-pocketed online competitors moving into the traditional distribution space.”

To succeed, Larmon added, distributors have to constantly apply innovation and insight as they reimagine their roles and value to vendors and customers.

Reimagining one’s spot in the marketplace and applying innovation and insights to the company business are things that pool and spa distributors have done, and continue to do, well. That’s why there are distributors celebrating 35, 45, 60, even 90-plus years in business.

Here, prominent pool and spa distributors offer their perspective on the present-day industry, discuss the role innovation will play in its future, and share their own recent updates and upgrades.

Present optimism
Economic trends are proving friendly to the industry, and distributors are seeing the effects.

“Overall demand is affected mostly by changes in retail consumer spending and housing-starts growth,” says Bill Kent, outgoing CEO of Team Horner in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “Based on those figures, we think the overall increase in demand for pool supplies right now is around 8- to 10 percent. … This growth should level off in 2015/2016.”

Each industry segment is affected by the economy in its own way. Construction still faces challenges, with “new builds 60 percent below what we consider normal,” says Manuel Perez de la Mesa, CEO of Covington, La.-based PoolCorp.

Meanwhile, maintenance and repair continues to experience the most growth by far, followed by remodeling and replacement of pools aged 6 years and older.

Perez de la Mesa then makes a prediction: “The industry is growing in the single digits yearly, generally 3- to 4 percent last year and 3- to 5 percent this year.”

The mood at the Independent Distributors Network sounds upbeat as well. “Based on our numbers from year-end last year, it’s looking better,” says Melissa Moreo, group manager of the Dublin, Ohio-based buying group comprising family-owned U.S. and Canadian independent distributors.

She reports IDN members have increased their purchases through the group, giving Moreo cause for optimism. “The distributors are ramping up at this time of year,” she says. “We’re starting to turn the corner.”

Innovation and the future
When looking to the future, sooner or later talk comes back to innovation.

Kent sees innovation, though he spies it mostly in peripheral pool, spa and backyard products, rather than staples such as pumps and filters.

“For example, we have a new ‘fire bowl’ that enhances any pool image. There is still much opportunity in the overall backyard, and in lighting as well,” he says.

Indeed, when PSN asked distributors what’s new for 2015, four mini-trends emerged: a greater emphasis on the backyard and related products, such as outdoor kitchens and fire features; distributors’ determination to make a bigger showing online by upgrading websites and boosting social-media activity; more customer-friendly shipping policies; and a greater focus on supporting brick-and-mortar retailers.

In addition, of course, some will be carrying new products this year. For more of the particulars, see the listing that follows.

When all is said and done, perhaps Perez de la Mesa sums it up best: “Distribution is integral to the success of industry — any industry.”

Founded: 2002
General Manager: Marie Gerrish
Headquarters: Las Vegas
Employees: 40
Distribution centers: 1
SKUs: 10,000+
Key products:
* Pool and spa controls, equipment, accessories, electrical tools and more.
* Manufacturer of genuine brands of Len Gordon, Spa Builders and Brett Aqualine.
* Master distributor of Gecko Alliance electronic controls and Aqua-Flo pumps.
* A one-stop source for hard-to-find replacement spa parts and controls.
* Offering over 130 additional brand spa parts and controls.
* A fulfillment and assembly house along with injection molding capabilities.
What’s new for 2015:
* Continuing to excel in incentive programs for Allied’s customer base.

Founded: 1986
President: Donna Ketron
Headquarters: Concord, N.C.
Employees: 13
Distribution centers: 1
SKUs: 1,500+
Key products:
* Many national brands of chemicals, replacement cartridge filters and water testing for the pool and spa.
What’s new for 2015:
* Appatek Industries has added the ClearView chemical and maintenance line of products, RolaChem / Paradise Industries, and PoolRx.
* Also added a price lock component to its early buy and spring restock programs.
* Continuing the company’s free freight policy for the 48 contiguous states.

AQUATIC PARTS CO. (800) 234-6700
Founded: 1997
Owners: Chuck, John and David Arakelian
Headquarters: Bloomfield, Conn.
Employees: 30
Distribution centers: 1
SKUs: 25,000+
Key products: Filters, filter cartridges, DE grids and parts for pumps, heaters, cleaners, lights, deck equipment and spas.
What’s new for 2015:
* Updated website as part of the new www.baystatepools.com.
* Social media (LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter).
* Continuing to update its EZOrder Program.
* Expanded increased capacity of shipping to be able to adhere to the company’s commitment to 24-hour shipping and same-day shipping for orders in by 3 p.m. (EST).

Founded: 1965
Owners: Chuck, John and David Arakelian
Headquarters: Cambridge, Mass.
Employees: 250
Distribution centers: 10
SKUs: 40,000
Key products:
* Above- and inground pools, spas, pool construction products, filters, pumps, heaters, automatic cleaners, chemicals and deck equipment.
What’s new for 2015:
* Updated website.
* Social media (LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter).
* Continuing to update its EZOrder Program.
* Expanded markets in southern Virginia, Virginia Beach, Richmond and western upstate New York.

BEL-AQUA POOL SUPPLY INC. (914)-235-2200
Founded: 1955
President: Martin Silver
Headquarters: New Rochelle, N.Y.
Employees: 60+
Distribution centers: 1
SKUs: 50,000+
Key products: Equipment, pools, chemicals and additional supplies.
What’s new for 2015:
* Reliable, customer-focused distribution for 60 years and three generations. Bel-Aqua’s technology solutions for the pool professional feature a modern B-to-B website and easy-to-use mobile app.

ESSENTIALS (800) 866-2499, (626) 305 1182
Founded: 1993
President: Ann Spires
Headquarters: Cumming, Ga.
Employees: 15
Distribution centers: 2
SKUs: 700+
Key products: Essentials stocks hundreds of products to enhance the hot tub and backyard experience, including spa care and maintenance products, fragrances, chemicals, mineral sanitizers and more.

Founded: 1923
President: Nanette Zakian
Headquarters: Aston, Pa.
Employees: 45
Distribution centers: 2
SKUs: 30,000
Key products:
* A full line of pool and spa equipment and parts from the leading industry manufacturers.
* Specializing in brands that are not on the Internet, featuring Hachik’s SunGuard pool and spa chemicals, solar covers, and winter and safety covers; AquaGuard equipment; SplashPro maintenance products; and Solara spas.
What’s new for 2015:
* Introducing Hachik’s new lineup for SplashPro maintenance products; AquaGuard robotic cleaners and 50,000 BTU heat/cool heat pump; SunGuard replacement cartridges and stain prevention kit . All of these products you will not see on the Internet – they are for brick-and-mortar dealers only.

HORIZON SPA & POOL PARTS| (800) 874-7727
Founded: 1992
President: Ralph Raub
Headquarters: Tucson, Ariz.
Employees: 48
Distribution centers: 1
SKUs: over 65,000
Key products:
* Exclusive line of premium spa control systems with enhanced warranty.
* Replacement swimming pool parts and components.
* Replacement parts and components for inground and portable spas.
* Underwater LED lights for pools, spas, waterfeatures and perimeter applications.
* Exclusive online parts identification system.
What’s new for 2015:
* Partsology online parts identification system.
* Pre-rated shipping options offered at reduced prices.
* Elimination of all handling fees.
* Expanded inventory of tens of thousands of pool and spa parts.
* Customized inventory management and fulfillment services.
* Introduction of Speck EasyFit pumps and all Speck replacement parts.
* Generic retrofit heaters for Watkins are back.
* All-new PAL LED Optics Perimeter Light and Waterblade Light System.
* Enhanced lineup of PAL Color Touch LED pool, spa, landscape and waterfeature lighting.

HORNERXPRESS (800) 432-6966
Founded: 1969
CEO: Bill Kent
Headquarters: Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Employees: 430
Distribution centers: 14
SKUs: 10,000
Key products: Key brands carried include AquaCal, AutoPilot, StoneHardscapes, Lo-Chlor, Tropi-Clear, Pentair, Hayward, Century, Bluffton and Zodiac.
What’s new for 2015: A bigger emphasis on “beyond the pool” will focus on BackyardXpo products like the Bombshelter Outdoor Kitchen System, StoneHardscapes, Tile, Fire Features and FireFX, and patio furniture.

Founded: 1959
CEO: Anthony Brennan
Headquarters: Latham, N.Y.
Employees: 300+
Distribution centers: 10
SKUs:  50,000+
Key products:
* A full-line distributor of all major pool manufacturers’ equipment. In addition, Imperial’s Legacy, Generation and Matrix inground package pool brands, complemented by Vinyl Works Interior Pool Finishes, Saratoga Thermoformed Steps, and Nexus Steel and Polymer open top vinyl covered stairs, benches, coves and sundecks.
* Also featured are the company’s BASOC Elements chemicals program, Blue Cascade aboveground pools, Elements of Design pool interiors and more.
What’s new for 2015:
* Nexus Steel stairs, benches, cuddle coves and sundecks, and the Generation Pool packaged pool brand.

LINCOLN AQUATICS (800) 223-5450
Founded: 1954
President: Charles Luecker
Headquarters: Concord, Calif.
Employees: 48
Distribution centers: 2
SKUs: 6,500
Key Products: Commercial swimming pool equipment, chemicals and supplies. In addition, the company’s other brands include Lincoln, TEK and Champion.
What’s new for 2015:
* The new 200-page Lincoln Catalog and the Lincoln website contain the most comprehensive selection of aquatic supplies in the industry, according to the company. The products are organized in an easy-to-use format, allowing users to quickly locate what they need.

NPT (888) 476-7665
Founded: 1976
President: Manuel J. Perez de la Mesa
Headquarters: Covington, La.
Employees: Approximately 1,000
Distribution centers: 80
SKUs: 150,000
Key products: Pool tile, pool finishes, coping, decking, decorative concrete, grills, grill islands, waterfeatures, fire pits, NPT Designer Surfaces vinyl liners.
What’s new for 2015:
* NPT Designer Surfaces — for the look of popular NPT tile and finish in a vinyl- liner pool.
* NPT 2015 Tile Collection — more than a dozen new series, including porcelain, glass and simulated stone.
* Decorative Concrete — includes micro-toppings, overlays, stamp patterns, stencil patterns, stains, sealers, color hardeners and color releases.

OPTIMUS POOL & SPA PARTS (800) 564-1078
Founded: 1995
President: Eric Goode
Headquarters: Memphis, Tenn.
Employees: 20
Distribution centers: 1
SKUs: 20,000
Key products: Pool and spa parts, toys and tools.
What’s new for 2015:
* LaMotte mobile spin labs, Animal Pro Maintenance equipment, new freight program.

Founded: 1976
President: Matt Morgan
Headquarters: Charlotte, N.C.
Employees: 110
Distribution centers: 8
SKUs: 7,000
Key products: Full-line distributor stocking chemicals, equipment, polymer and steel pool kits, construction materials, parts, safety covers, liners and aboveground pools.
What’s new for 2015:
* Aquabrite bag balancers.
* Construction materials.
* Fire pits.
* Backyard kitchens.

Founded: 1992
President: Andres Becerra
Headquarters: Ontario, Calif.
Employees: 200
Distribution centers: 23
SKUs: 30,000
Key products: Products from major industry manufacturers as well as plumbing, electrical, landscape and plaster supplies.
What’s new for 2015:
* Always growing and introducing new, convenient locations every year. Visit the company website for a list of locations.

POOL WATER PRODUCTS (949) 756-1666
Founded: 1964
CEO:  Zelma “Zee” Allred
President: Dean C. Allred
Headquarters: Irvine, Calif.
Employees: 300
Distribution centers: 20
SKUs: 50,000+
Key Products: All Clear Professional Pool and Spa Chemicals and accessories, as well as a full line of distributor stocking products from all major manufacturers.
What’s new for 2015:
* The new 2015 All Clear Color Action Program will reward qualifying dealers with a spectacular trip for two to the Paradisus Palma Real Punta Cana All Inclusive Resort.
* PWP continues to expand by stocking greater quantities of inventory.
* The company also is broadening its breadth of products offered from its traditional manufacturers’ new products and adding products from new vendors in the categories of cleaning equipment, specialty chemicals and alternative sanitizers.

Founded: 1986
President: Daryl Coles
Headquarters: Boca Raton, Fla.
Employees: 50
Distribution centers: 3
SKUs: 4,000
Key products: Pumps, filters, motors, cartridges, chemicals, inground pool products.
What’s new for 2015:
* Proline Distributors will focus on supporting products made for brick-and-mortar locations and its service trade.

QUALITY POOL SUPPLY CO. (800) 968-8878
Founded: 1971
President: Cary Engelhart
Headquarters: Clio, Mich.
Employees: 85
Distribution centers: 4
SKUs: 70,000
Key products: A wide range of swimming pools, spas, equipment and supplies.
What’s new for 2015:
* Onground pool kits
* Many new products exclusively for brick-and-mortar stores.

RECREONICS INC. (800) 428-3254
Founded: 1965
President: Frank L. Jones Jr.
Headquarters: Louisville, Ky.
Employees: 40
Distribution centers: 1
SKUs: 25,000
Key products: Commercial swimming pool equipment.
What’s new for 2015:
* The New Wibit FastTrack3 and FastTrack6 are modular combinations suitable for shallow water and a great way to entertain individuals or groups. Recreonics Inc. is the exclusive United States distributor for Wibit Commercial Pool products.

SCP DISTRIBUTORS, LLC (888) 476-7665
Founded/acquired: 1993
President: Manuel J. Perez de la Mesa
Headquarters: Covington, La.
Employees: 2,000+
Distribution centers: 175+ (North America)
SKUs: 150,000
Key products: Pool equipment, chemicals, parts, supplies, building materials, tile, pool finishes, pool kits, vinyl liners, aboveground pools, deck products, lighting, spas and more.
What’s new for 2015:
* NPT Designer Surfaces — for the look of the most popular tile and finish in a vinyl-liner pool.
* Super-Pro Color Coordinates — accessorize the pool with fittings that match the liner.

SPA PARTS PLUS (800) 521-7587
Founded: 1986
President: Barry Knickerbocker
Headquarters: Prescott Valley, Ariz.
Employees: 50
Distribution centers: 1
SKUs: 16,000
Key products: After-market spa parts and accessories.
What’s new for 2015:
* Spa Parts Plus has an exclusive selection of “top-quality PROLINE filter cartridges at highly competitive pricing.”

Founded/acquired: 2000
President: Manuel J. Perez de la Mesa
Headquarters: Covington, La.
Employees: 1,000+
Distribution centers: 66
SKUs: 150,000
Key products: Pool equipment, chemicals, parts, supplies, building materials, tile, pool finishes, pool kits, vinyl liners, aboveground pools, deck products, lighting, spas and more
What’s new for 2015:
* NPT Designer Surfaces — for the look of the most popular tile and finish in a vinyl-liner pool.
* Super-Pro Color Coordinates — accessorize the pool with fittings that match the liner.

W.W. ADCOCK INC. (215) 947-3800
Founded: 1955
President: Dee Adcock
Headquarters: Huntingdon Valley, Pa.
Employees: 140
Distribution centers: 9
SKUs: 45,000+
Key products: A full-line distributor of swimming pool equipment and supplies, featuring prefabricated, vinyl and fiberglass pools.
What’s new for 2015:
* New distributor center location in Monroe, La., offering a full inventory of Riviera Fiberglass Pools.