A down economy has given rise to a new type of business for the pool and spa industry.

Using a model similar to Craig’s List, AquaLiquidators.com brings buyers and sellers of excess inventory together.

“The idea grew out of necessity,” said David Frakes, who launched the site June 1. “Unfortunately, this will probably be our most successful venture in this industry.”

Frakes, who heads up design and marketing firm IM3 in Omaha, Neb., has created the business-to-business enterprise as a sort of clearinghouse for distressed, discontinued or bankruptcy-liquidation products and equipment.

In addition to typical pool and spa-related merchandise, the site is designed to include listings for office furnishings, display units and warehouse machinery, among other items.

“Ultimately, you may have inventory not because dealers are in trouble, but to liquidate overstock or excess product,” he said. “In the long term, I hope it turns into a trading post for like businesses.”  

It costs nothing to list or shop for products, Frakes said, but the site collects a 4.5 percent commission from both parties if a sale is completed.

If his name sounds familiar, that’s no coincidence. In June 2008, Frakes helped launch the buying and marketing group Recway along with electronics industry veteran Steve Bryant of Kennesaw, Ga., and Jesse Roberts, former owner of Roberts Pool & Spa of Omaha.

The group has fallen significantly short of expectations, and critics contend it hasn’t shown much in the way of results.      

Even Frakes concedes the venture hit a few snags along the way.

“This economy has forced us to revamp the Recway model,” he said. “We’ve essentially taken the ‘buying group’ element out, so it’s now more of an add-on … where we provide services like training videos and marketing materials.

“The issue now,” he added, “is survival.”