Success on the Web

The Internet gives many local companies huge sales boosts by allowing them to market worldwide

News Business Reporter

The dot.com economy may have plunged to a fiery, ugly death more than a year ago, but Bill Marx never got the news out on Grand Island.

Island Pools kept plugging along with its Web strategy. Which led to Marx, on a rainy, 45-degree morning last week, selling a pool liner to a guy in Lubbock, Texas, where the morning temperature was soaring toward 80 degrees.

"He wanted to know how fast we could get it to him, because they were really ready to use their pool," Marx said. "If you would have asked three years ago, I would have said there is no way you can sell pools on the Internet. But we've done very well with it."

The folks in the Carolinas can make fun of Buffalo's weather all they want, but lots of them send their money up here to buy pool supplies. They browse the Grand Island store when their Web browsers lead them to poolsupplies.com.

About $2.4 million of Island Pools' $6.8 million of revenue last year came from Internet sales. The company sells hundreds of pool covers, pool heaters and even some complete 24-foot above ground pools online. A FedEx trailer leaves the Grand Island Boulevard store with the orders every business day.

Using the Internet as a tool to boost retail sales, rather than trying to create entirely new online businesses, has been profitable for many small businesses.

"The more people get comfortable with the Internet, the more they are going to shop on the Internet," said Scott MacDonald, sales manager for the Internet service provider BuffNET. "If you're a store on Grand Island, your market is limited to your backyard, which is Grand Island. Once you go on the Internet, the world is your backyard."

Online retail sales grew 12 percent from $42.4 billion in 2000 to $47.6 billion in 2001, according to Forrester Research.

(THE ARTICLE CONTINUES AT http://www.buffalonews.com/editorial/20020428/1000527.asp BUT THERE IS NO FURTHER MENTION OF THE GRAND ISLAND BUSINESS)