Home' Splash Magazine : SPLASH Aug-Sept 2015 Contents Skills and competition
Wallace says that he would never criticise pool shops.
" ey're either sitting there all week really quiet, or
on the weekend or the summer they're so busy they can
hardly nd time to do a water test.
"So I'd never criticise them, they have a very di cult
job. But de nitely the ability to sell a product and have
well-trained salespeople is a weakness in the industry.
And even those that are well trained in selling will, over
time, forget to apply the basics.
"Everyone can do with a refresher course and rein-
vigorate themselves. And I think that's really important.
And it's probably a weakness in the pool shops."
He also says that while presentation in the shops has
improved signi cantly in the past ten or fteen years,
there is still some way to go.
"You've got to remember who your competitors are.
And if you say that mass merchants are your competitors,
then where is it more fun to go shopping? If you've got
to go shopping for pool chemicals on the weekend, is
it more fun to go to Bunnings or more fun to go to the
pool shop? You'd better make sure your pool shop looks
good, feels good, is great to be in and has great customer
service. Because the alternative is go and have a look at
all the garden tools and all the good stu that blokes like
to look at -- and pick up his chemicals -- and do it all in
one spot. Or do you go to a smelly old pool shop where
you've got a grumpy Basil Fawlty behind the counter?"
O'Brien agrees that the in-shop experience is crucial.
"Retail is all about experience and the senses. Online
cannot o er the same thing as an in-store experience and
it will never replace the value of a live experience espe-
cially in a knowledge and service based industry like ours.
"Personality and an ability to truly engage with a
customer is becoming a lost art but is one that needs
attention. How often do you hear, 'Can I help you?'
only to have the customer immediately dismiss you and
the sales person simply accept that and the interaction
ends," says O'Brien.
"Still after all these years, the ability for a person to en-
gage a shopper in a meaningful conversation is invalua-
ble. On that rare occasion where an assistant engages you
based on an obvious assessment they have made as to
what kind of customer you are and the potential experi-
ence or product you are looking for -- and structures their
opening address to you accordingly -- it's a unique and
interesting experience. And ultimately a satisfying one."
Education and training
O'Brien says that education and training is something
Poolwerx values highly, and led them to play an instru-
mental role in the creation of the Cert III and IV in
Swimming Pool and Spa Service.
"We've just completed our third training school of
technicians and the responses from the people taking
part in the training courses have been through the roof,
they absolutely loved taking part in all parts of the
technical and service training we o ered. e training
to us signi es that no matter how good your brand is
and how good your systems are, they all fall down if
the person delivering the brand or the system to the
consumer isn't adequately equipped, accredited, incenti-
vised and trained to deliver this information."
He also says that there seems to a big disconnect at
the moment where you have educated customers but
retailers that aren't rising to the occasion of providing
"We therefore see the education courses that we
run purely as competitive advantage. In a sense, we
don't look at it as training, rather guaranteed return
in the US
Australia's largest pool and spa care franchise Poolwerx has finalised its next
round of acquisitions in the United States, purchasing the retail and residential
servicing and maintenance divisions of Vivo Pools.
The deal adds a Poolwerx presence in two additional Sunbelt states, after their
earlier foray into Arizona through the acquisition of Cactus Pools in Phoenix.
Vivo trades as SC Pool & Spa Works in California, Crystal Tech Pools in Arizona
and Citrus Pool Services in Florida. As well as the two retail stores, the acquisi-
tion adds a warehouse operation and 40 mobile service and maintenance units
to the Poolwerx USA business.
"This is the perfect addition to our USA footprint as it enhances our presence of
our existing 15 stores and nine mobile units in Arizona, and offers us two other
great foundations in the American Sunbelt region with California and Florida.
This sets us well on the path for our franchise development targets," says
Poolwerx first launched in Australia 22 years ago and now boasts 85 retail and
300 mobile units across Australia and New Zealand. The Poolwerx USA busi-
ness now has 17 retail and 49 mobile units across America. Earlier, O'Brien had
expressed a desire to reach 300 stores in the US by 2020.
"It's exciting times," he says. "We have only been in the USA for six months and
we are on plan, on target, and aligned with our five year development vision to
2020. I certainly feel a bit like a kid in a candy store. The American industry has
embraced our vision of organising the category through our franchise business
model, and we have some incredible supporters."
Above: John O'Brien
founded Poolwerx in 1990
Right: The launch
facility in Brisbane
"You need to offer a solution to
the consumer and the solution is
not just about price."
42 SPLASH! August/September 2015
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