If any doubts remain that the remodeling industry and the Internet would connect, they should be wiped away now that Amazon.com, the Internet’s largest retailer of music, books and videos, has begun to sell hardware products. The Internet superstore launched Amazon.com/homeimprovement late last year.
Contractors and homeowners will be able to purchase products such as faucets, hardware, tools and other items through the Internet giant. Home-improvement products also will be on sale in seven other categories including hardware, housewares, outdoor living, painting supplies, tools, electrical and lighting, and lawn and garden.
"The target market for our home-improvement division is the professional contractor," says Joe Galli, president and COO of Amazon.com in an interview with Contractor magazine. "We offer a full, exhaustive line of equipment they use every day. We had tremendous requests from people who make a living with tools that we move into the home-improvement market. We’ve already sold thousands of industry-related books to professional contractors and this was just the next step."
Any product purchased from the home-improvement section of the web site will be shipped anywhere in the country, regardless of weight, for a flat fee of $4.95. Customers requesting overnight delivery will pay extra.
"The No. 1 advantage we have is our selection," Galli says. "We have upwards of 400 brand-name products available that professionals have come to respect and trust. We want to offer our customers everything here at Amazon.com."
Not all remodelers plan to shop online, however. "The only problem I feel with purchasing online, is that it’s hard to get support," says Robert Criner, CGR, of Criner Construction Co. in Yorktown, Va. "If the faucet leaks, who am I going to email, and if it comes in damaged, who am I going to call? I see Internet purchasing getting stronger in the future, when [the companies] have better customer support in place. Then, I see the industry moving in that direction."
Amazon.com purchased Tool Crib of the North, a leading tool-and-equipment catalog company to help support its home-improvement division. Tool Crib of the North already had an online and catalog business with a shipping program in place that Amazon.com adopted. While Tool Crib of the North most likely will benefit from its new partnership with the Internet store, the effect on other wholesalers remains uncertain.
The Home Depot also plans to sell products on its website in spring 2000. Customers will be able to check store inventory online, have products delivered and return online purchases at a store.