Faucet companies partner with Web sites

Both Grohe America, Delta Faucet Co. and Price Pfister have signed partnership agreements with online home-improvement service providers. Grohe America has signed a partnership agreement with HomeProject.com, a provider of online design and visualization solutions for businesses and consumers. Grohe’s faucets will be available on the HomeProject.com Web site, www.homeproject.com, where homeowners can point and click through Grohe’s line of faucets in the design process. The Web site enables homeowners to work from a 3-D replica of the room being designed. Different faucets can be tested by pointing on an item and dropping it into the desired room.

“We’ve been very active on the Internet,” said Al DeGenova, North American director of advertising and new media at Grohe. “We’ve had a Web site since 1995. We are allowing HomeProject.com to use images of our products on their site. They don’t have a purchase model in place yet, but their e-commerce model will involve links to wholesalers. We will not be bypassing wholesalers but creating another vehicle to generate traffic to the wholesalers’ showrooms.”

Grohe has had a similar relationship for about two years now with HomePortfolio.com, which acts as an online showroom, DeGenova said. A large number of plumbing fixture and faucet manufacturers are visible at www.homeportfolio.com, including Altmans, American Standard, Chicago Faucets, Delta, Dornbracht, Geberit, KWC, Hansa, Hansgrohe, Kohler, Moen and St. Thomas Creations.

Delta Faucet, part of the Masco Corp. group of companies, has joined other manufacturers participating in ImproveNet, a Web-based home-improvement services company. As part of the agreement, Delta will be able to match homeowners with local available contractors, architects and designers from ImproveNet’s prescreened network. Consumers can access ImproveNet (www.improvenet .com) from the Delta Web site.

Price Pfister has become one of the founding members of the BuildNet e-building exchange. Through the agreement and tools provided by BuildNet, Price Pfister should be able to develop, manage and edit its own catalog data on the site located at www.buildnet.com. Catalog data will include photos of products, product codes, SKUs, descriptive text, warranty policies, and installation and maintenance instructions.

As a founding member, Price Pfister will have continuous brand identification on BuildNet’s homepage. The Internet-based exchange is scheduled for commercial introduction in 2000 and will provide builders and homeowners with access to supplier information.

The wholesaler’s perspective

Wholesalers contacted by SUPPLY HOUSE TIMES tend to take a positive view of manufacturers’ participating in home-improvement Web sites.

“This is nothing more than a vehicle for those manufacturers to market their names and promote their Web sites,” said Jeffrey Moss, vice president/co-owner of Advance Plumbing Supply, Walled Lake, Mich.

“The key to being successful on the Internet is to get people to notice your Web site,” he said.

What should concern wholesalers is when manufacturers start selling direct on the Internet, Moss said. “Some big builders are putting pressure on manufacturers to sell them direct. That would cut out normal distribution channels. The time may come when manufacturers will feel they do enough business on the Internet and will become their own distributors.”

While the manufacturers participating in home-improvement Web sites are offering advice and product information, they also are telling people where they can purchase the product, said Patricia DeMarco, purchasing agent at Palermo Supply (Bergenfield, N.J.). “That works like free advertising for us,” she said.

Virtual showrooms that are usable by homeowners as well as trade professionals are where the market is going, said James E. Fuller, director/marketing and sales at Coburn Supply (Beaumont, Texas).

“The availability of product will be different,” he said. “A lot of homeowners will want to buy one product at a time. Builders will still buy through existing channels, direct or through plumbers.”

On the positive side, this indicates that manufacturers are showing support of Internet-based operations, Fuller said. “A number of wholesalers, including Coburn, are starting to get into Internet-based operations.”

Todd Pipe & Supply (Hawthorne, Calif.), which sells exclusively to licensed contractors, does not feel threatened by home-improvement Web sites addressed to consumers, said Dan Patrick, vice president/sales.

“These Web sites may pose a threat to our contractors, because homeowners can buy their own material,” he said. “We’re trying to create an in-house system where our customers can access the manufacturers’ Web sites from ours. Virtual showrooms will enable contractors to let the homeowners select items without having to spend time inside — or traveling to and from — a showroom.”

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