Arizona Dealers Organize For MAP Enforcement

Cailley Hammel Headshot

The Arizona Pool Dealer’s Association is calling for stricter enforcement of minimum advertised price policies. 

Bart Mitchell, president of the APDA and owner of Litchfield Park Pool Service in Litchfield Park, Ariz., says mounting frustration with slower sales prompted the organization to address MAP policies in meetings for more than a year. 

“We’re just seeing fewer whole good units being sold,” Mitchell says. “We still do well in parts and service repair. We’ve seen a big downturn in the higher-priced goods being sold out of the store.” 

During the organization’s September 11 meeting, the 28 retail stores of the APDA voted nearly unanimously to follow a new set of standards, including the following: refusal to honor warranty for products purchased online and refusal to install products purchased online. 

It’s been more than a month since the vote, and so far, Mitchell says not much has changed.

“The manufacturers have been eerily quiet,” he says. “And I understand that. The factories I’m sure are making their quotas by selling mass quantities to the internet guys. But it’s just not working for us.”

Manufacturers, however, deny any difference in the MAP standards they hold for various retailers. 

“They adamantly say they’re selling the units at the same price for the internet retailers, which is unfathomable to me. I don’t see how that could be true,” Mitchell says.

While manufacturers remain mum on the issue, dealers across the country have voiced their support for the APDA’s stance. Because of this, Mitchell says the APDA is in the early stages of a new website that will serve as a national forum for dealers to discuss their views on the MAP issue. 

The best-case scenario for Mitchell and the APDA: policy with bite. Retailers who carry a manufacturer’s product would be listed as a “preferred” retailer or dealer.  These retailers would honor MAP policies, serve as a warranty station for that manufacturer’s products and also be featured on any manufacturer listings as a location of product purchase and repair. Those without a “preferred” status would pay a different price for the product. Retailers that do not honor the established MAP would be unable to purchase from that manufacturer. 

“That would be ideal: Anybody who sells for less than a price we can’t compete with, should not be able to sell that product,” Mitchell says. “I don’t see that happening, so why don’t we just stop selling that product? 

“Some manufacturers are more capable of enforcing their MAP policies than others,” Mitchell adds. “Frankly, I think most manufacturers don’t care.” 

While money is a driving factor in this issue, Mitchell says it’s more than the bottom line that matters.

“It’s important because it’s the future of the pool industry as it relates to having a physical presence in the market,” he says. “I’m convinced that there are enough people out there that, if they’re talking about a $20 or $30 or $40 price difference, then they’ll go to the local store to purchase something that’s $400 or $500 dollars. I don’t have a problem with that. But we can’t even make that margin because of internet pricing. In fact, we would most likely lose money.”

Mitchell’s other source of frustration with internet retailers: they don’t have to pay sales tax, and quite often, they offer free shipping to customers. These additional incentives, Mitchell says, make it easier for internet retailers to drop their cost and widen the disparity between internet retailers and physical stores. 

“I can’t tell you why the manufacturers don’t take this as important enough of an issue to try and come up with a solution,” Mitchell says. “And why should they if they’re making a lot of money?”

While discussion between brick-and-mortar stores, internet retailers and manufacturers on this issue is contentious, Mitchell says things will need to change on at least one of those sides. 

“The internet’s not going away, we know that. We just have to figure out how to deal with it.”

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