Well it looks like spring is starting here in KY, it was around 70 degrees today ( this just might nbe a tease though but its getting people thinking about pools and acessories)
I was just going to see how you guys fight the big box stores on your chemical pricing. What do you sell your 3" Tabs for, do you do any value kits, give a discount on your shock if they buy so much. Just trying to get some ideals together for the start of the chemical season.
As for the off-label, you could tell them exactly what you are saying here -- namely that the ingredients (chemicals) are the same, but they do not have instructions for pools on the label. They could buy one bottle from you that has a label and if they want to buy the grocery store equivalent, then they're on their own and you can't recommend this as it would make you legally liable. You aren't recommending it, just stating facts. People can then choose to do what they want. If they want to pay more so that they get the instructions on a label every time and also feel better in case they ask you for (free) advice, then they can do so. If they want to take responsibility for using an off-label product, then that's their choice. Either way, at least you won't be making any claims for some products that the pool store versions are different, better, or the only ones that should be used (not that you do that, but some pool store owners do, though usually because they are just repeating what their distributors told them). When people find out that isn't true, credibility is lost and that can do more damage in the long-run.
Of course, another solution is to get the manufacturers to sell you these products at prices where you can compete more effectively, but of course you have less power or influence to change that.
Clorox bleach is an interesting example as well since they do not describe pool dosages on the label, but rather provide "service bulletins" or info via E-mail for that purpose. Save this link as a TIFF file to view in a multi-page TIFF viewer and note on page 15 at the bottom through page 16 instructions for use of this product for swimming pool disinfection. I received similar info via E-mail from Clorox when I asked. Of course, if you can offer 12.5% chlorinating liquid at a reasonable price, then that's half the weight to carry which I know for myself is an important factor for which I would pay a premium. Also, my pool store reuses the bottles (i.e. I return the empties for which a deposit is paid/returned) which is better than recycling -- another important and distinguishing factor for which I'd gladly pay a premium.
I think you raise a valid concern for many people. Here on the Pool Genius Network you will find a great proportion of "elite" professionals. There are many pool companies out there that do not follow the same, respectable mindset as the quality people here do. I mention this because - in point of fact - you are not only competing with big box stores, but also companies with lower standards than you offer, who appear to be your equals - to the untrained consumer, that is.
I agree 100% with all those who value your service (and their own) more than a price shopper, but the truth of the matter is that, in order to outline the benefits of working with you as a professional as opposed to buying cheap from a retailer with lower standards, you must have the customer right in contact with you. If all they see is a flyer with your prices beside a flyer with Walmart's prices, you have to assume that the average pool owner is not savvy enough to automatically understand that the difference in price is due to your high quality service.
When you have the opportunity to talk yourself up, of course it is important to make sure your customers understand the difference you offer and the value of your expertise.
However, before you have that chance, putting your best face forward is important when you know that you have competition. I can't tell you how much I sell chemicals for because that's not what I do, but I would suspect that there are ways of "looking" very competitive without having to lower your rates.
I think "combo deals" are a great idea personally. As a consumer myself, if something is packaged with other complementary items, I am much more likely to get the whole kit and caboodle. Also, McDonalds has proven that it works, right? I also like the idea of loyalty cards. Not only does the prospect of getting something free appeal to most consumers, but it means that you have a continuous customer, rather than a one-timer. Paying for loyalty is not the same as decreasing your prices to match an apple-to-oranges competitor.
I'm not sure if this helps, but I wanted to throw my 2 cents into this great discussion!
Funny, just reading your post I was just looking at how our pricing compared to the Costco and BJ's of the world and surprisingly they are near double on stabilizer and other support chems and about 30% lower on the 3'tabs that we sell. I have decided to keep abreast of competitors pricing but not to worry. Just working on figuring out a way to inform our customers that our pricing in not outragious as big box likes to make it look. What you save on chlorine you will more than double your outlay in cash on other chemicals needed. Maybe some dare to compare signs. Any ideas.
I am a software entrepreneur solving problems for pool business owners, but I am also a pool owner myself.
My local pool dealer (who built my pool, and who does routine maintenance on it), also has a retail presence in town. They are certainly not the cheapest. Every spring they send out a flyer to me, where they have a one-day spring open house. For the first hour, they sell all chemicals 40% off, then 30% the rest of the day. I go there early, talk to the owner, the techs, the service guys - I listen to what they've been up to over the winter. I buy a value pack that covers the vast majority of normal chemical needs (I have a chlorinated pool with mineral cartridge assist). I know they will never beat the big-box prices on chemicals, but I know them. They know me. If I call with issues, they are always there to help. It's that relationship that matters to me, not saving a few bucks on chemicals.
I think having some early spring deals, some "value packs" for people wanting to stock up for the year, plus asking them about things that happened last year and letting them know you are there for them....that goes a long way in my book.
How are you going to prove to the customer that one chemical is of better quality than another. To a customer...shock is shock and tabs are tabs. Instead why not argue the convenience and safety of not having to buy and store on your property ...especially if you have children. As a pool guy...I'd prefer not having to carry chems from my truck and just get it from the equipment area. Also when the service company provides chemicals there is so many ways the customer can get ripped off. We have one pool company here in Atlanta where the average monthly chemical bill is $500. Just chemicals not service. They put in everything under the sun.