This week I got an urgent phone call to inform me that Mentone's well known local and online pool shop, The Poolstore Warehouse on Nepean Hwy, had suddenly closed its doors, permanently, leaving staff unemployed and customers looking for a new place to get their pool chemicals, water tests, equipment and servicing.
Is It Really A Surprise?
As shocking as it may seem to many people, this is not a one-off event. In the most highly dense pool owner's paradise in Melbourne, what should be an anomaly, almost feels like an inevitability.
Rising costs, online pricing, and more efficient systems, have caused many people to leave the industry and many businesses to shut shop, permanently. Combine those pressures with the short swimming window in Victoria and you can imagine how difficult it must be for the local pool store.
Typically in the dead of winter, around July, is when the pool industry has its annual price rise. It might vary a little bit from supplier to supplier, but you can comfortably expect anywhere from 2%-7% in an average year. Well, that was before COVID hit a couple of years back. In fact last year, there was a point where one of our suppliers was sending us monthly price increases, and those prices have never dropped back down either.
Online shopping - The good, the bad, the ugly.
The good. For the buyer, online shopping means a plethora of choice and options. All of which are just a click away, and this often means competitive pricing too.
The bad. Unfortunately online shopping can come at a cost. Lack of upfront advice by someone who cares, could mean a product that's inferior, or not quite right for the job. In our industry that often means a heat pump that's too small, wrong equipment, or a pool cleaner that never quite does the job properly.
The ugly. Have you ever made an online purchase and it never arrived, never worked, or wasn't what you paid for, and now you're stuck with it anyway, because you can't speak to anyone at the company who sold it?
The good, the bad, the ugly - from the perspective of a retail business
Imagine YOU are the owner of a local shop.
The good. A well informed shopper walks in and says, "I'll have one of those!" You quickly confirm it's the right fit/product for the job. You wrap it up, process the sale, throw in a gift and send them on their way - both knowing you've got each other's back, happy to help your customer if any challenges arise or any other advice is ever required.
The bad. Someone walks in, interested in purchasing a significantly priced product. They use your time to explore their needs and of course you are more than happy to help. Then when it's time to buy, they ask to price match with an online company, who don't even have a phone number to contact them. Or even worse, just walk out saying "We'll think about it" and then buy it online. As the business owner, it's easy to see how unsustainable that must be.
The ugly. A potential customer buys online to save money, and then something inevitably goes wrong. Naturally they come to see you, because the website they bought from doesn't care. It could be the customer wants it fixed under warranty, or maybe some of your time to diagnose the problem for them. As you're generously answering all their questions, you suddenly realise they're familiar. It suddenly dawns on you, they were in your store not 3 months ago, asking you about this exact product, now they own one, but they definitely did not buy it from you.
The Pool Warehouse Rivalry
The Poolstore Warehouse Mentone vs. The Pool Warehouse Braeside
The Poolstore Warehouse in Mentone, not to be confused with The Pool Warehouse in Braeside, suffered from high overheads and low margins. Slashing prices to undercut competition, left it without enough money to cover its bills. Rising debt compounded, reaching a point where suppliers were no longer able to extend credit, until eventually there was no coming back.
The Poolstore Warehouse in Mentone, changed its name and moved premises to its Nepean Hwy location, soon after Aquafirst Braeside re-branded to be known as The Pool Warehouse. This confusion in the market most likely hurt both businesses and eventually, The Pool Warehouse in Braeside chose to downsize its store, stepping away from pool maintenance, and returning to their original name Aquafirst. With the original name returning, the Braeside store strengthened its focus on selling new pools instead. From the success of new brands launched by Aquafirst, such as The Outback Plunge Pool and Aspire, its custom complete pool solutions, Aquafirst (aka The Pool Warehouse), made the easy decision to sell its local / online pool servicing division.
The Pool Warehouse in Braeside (now Aquafirst), focuses on customer pool ownership and swimming experience. The 4 pillars of this approach are:
- Low Chemical
- Low Maintenance
- Low Running Costs
- Fun for Everyone
Local Store Does It Differently
In May 2023, Aquafirst and The Pool Warehouse Braeside, changed hands to a new owner and previous employee Ross Pepper. Aquafirst, from its new location at Factory 5, 290 Boundary Rd in Braeside, is set to have a major influence in the future of pool servicing and maintenance. In an industry overdue for change, Ross at Aquafirst is innovating a refreshingly new approach to serving pool owners and their pools. Moving towards Fresher Water, Fewer Chemicals, Lower Maintenance and Energy Efficiency, the days of $100 chemical bills resulting from a simple water test, are quickly becoming a thing of the past.
Goodbye to The Poolstore Warehouse Mentone
So, as we say goodbye to the old way of doing things, and usher in the new, healthier, and more efficient approach to swimming pools, please give a thought to all your local stores, in this ever changing world. If someone invests their time in you, buy from them to say "thank you" and ensure they can still be there for you, tomorrow.
Were you Affected?
If you were an employee or a customer of The Poolstore Warehouse in Mentone, please call Aquafirst on (03) 9580 9488, or reach out to your local pool store.
It was recently brought to our attention that the firm handling the liquidation of The Poolstore Warehouse in Mentone, is SV Partners.
If you have been financially affected and haven't yet been contacted by SV Partners, please contact Darcy (the handling agent) directly via email email@example.com as soon as possible.
There is an auction being held by the Lockwood Company, selling all remaining equipment. If you are quick, you might pick up a bargain! FYI: It's lumped in with other auctions, so not easy to find. Click here for auction details.
We regularly get asked "Are you the company that has taken over from The Poolstore Warehouse in Mentone?" However there is no one store that has taken over, there are multiple stores that have picked up their customers, and if you're still looking for a new home, we'd be happy to be your choice for all your pool servicing needs.