In The News: October 22, 2009

PoolCorp Acquires General Pool Supply, But Where Do Dealers Stand?

Poolcorp1009While the deal for PoolCorp to purchase West Coast distributor General Pool and Spa Supply closed on Oct. 16, it has left in its wake uncertainty among dealers.

"It's never good when one company monopolizes an industry," says Jon Heffernan, president of Wight Water Pools in Fresno, Calif. "There are a lot of opinions. It's good for them, bad for us, and that's the feeling all around."

Heffernan's concern isn't just the fact that the number of major distributors is dwindling fast; it's that PoolCorp may raise prices for dealers, which in turn raises prices for customers and makes them more likely to turn to the Internet to get affordable options for their pool or spa. And for an industry that is already fighting online stores, that's a daunting prospect.

"Competition is a very good thing for keeping prices down," says John Skubik, owner of Total Pool Care in Fresno, Calif., "but eventually we fear that it will get to the point where we'll be shopping at Leslie's, which is a pretty good-sized retailer nationwide, for our parts because the prices will go up.

"People really like the underdog, the smaller company," says Skubik. "They are out there working harder. The employees strive to provide better service for you so you are more likely to stay with them."

Skubik stresses his concern over dwindling competition in the distribution segment of the industry.

"If it gets down to one player in the distribution line, it's going to get tough for us, and that's a big concern."

However, Mark Joslin, vice president and chief financial officer of PoolCorp, sees the acquisition as a positive indicator for the industry.

"I think for anyone to be investing in the industry at this point is a sign of confidence in the industry and the opportunities that we see in the industry going forward. Here's a company that has the financial ability to make investments at this point in time. It's a player in the industry that is putting its money where its mouth is, if you will."

Joslin says PoolCorp intends to continue providing the "great customer service GPS has provided to its customers and to supplement that over time with the additional tools and resources that PoolCorp, as a larger company, has to improve on that over time."

Joslin projects that very little change will take place in the near future from the customer standpoint, but longterm change is dependent on "allowing the folks at GPS to take advantage of what PoolCorp brings in terms of specific customer programs, services and product breadth to serve customers." He says PoolCorp's focus will continue to be on minimizing the impact this will have on customers other than incorporating a positive effect on what GPS is already doing.

While Skubik doesn't serve as a dealer spokesperson, he says he's spoken to enough of his business confidants to get a good sense of popular opinion.

"There are a few people who believe it'll streamline the process, and it'll speed things up. Some people think it's a good thing, but most of us believe we're headed in the wrong direction."

Coleman Spas To Be Manufactured by Cal Spas' Corporate Parent

Coleman Spas1009LMS, Inc., the corporation responsible for managing Cal Spas and OC Hot Tubs, will manufacture and distribute spas under the Coleman Spas brand, with an initial launch this November.

"We believe our industry needs nationally known names consumers can recognize," says Casey Loyd, president of LMS. "And having a national name back in our industry allows the consumer to recognize that the hot tub industry is in fact a well-funded and well-organized industry that develops products that consumers should not only enjoy, but benefit from, as well."

LMS conducted a market study this past March regarding the Coleman name and found that it was the No. 1 recognized name in outdoor products and No. 2 in outdoor sports products, coming in second only to Nike. We think the name is pretty strong, and it is going to be recognizable to consumers who grew up with it, the consumers who are in our age brackets now who buy the types of products we are selling," says Loyd.

Coleman Two1009Attendees of the 2009 International Pool | Spa | Patio Expo will be able to get a sneak peek, and Loyd encourages others to check out Coleman's Web site - - which will launch on or around Nov. 1, to find out more information.

"We are excited about this because we believe a lot of people are sitting back or pulling back, and we just think that's not the answer. We think the answer is get in! We are still competing with other products consumers are buying for their homes. We believe you have to rush in, and this is the statement we are trying to make."

Industry Happenings

Pletco Purelogo1009Pleatco has appointed Aqua Quest as its sales representative for the Northeastern United States. Jim Gillick, Scott Van Zanten, Taber French, John Reading and Sean Page make up the Aqua Quest team, and they will work with Pleatco distributors and dealers from Maine to Virginia.

"We're excited to work with the new Pleatco," says Jim Gillick, Aqua Quest president. "Under new ownership, Pleatco has changed the filter cartridge business. Pleatco's focus on quality, marketing and product development is something this market has needed."

MAAX Spas has acquired the assets of DM Industries and the Vita Spas brand. MAAX currently manufactures the California Cooperage, MAAX Collection, PowerPool and Elite Spa brands. The addition of the Vita Spa brand positions MAAX as a global industry leader, says the company.

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