Is now the right time to think about new product lines?

going_outOver the past several months I have found myself watching closely the economic issues surrounding this marine industry of ours and have realized, though it is struggling, there are some interesting opportunities presenting themselves to forward thinking aggressive dealers.

Let me explain what I mean. In earlier writings I suggested all dealers need to be cautious of inventories inclusive of both new products as well as used. I suggested that you trim your product offerings to fewer boat brands and engine brands and thus concentrate on those brands bringing you the greater volumes and profits. I remain convinced that all dealers need to “trim the fat” so to speak and enter the coming 2010 season with reduced overhead and a more concentrated approach to direct consumer product sales. Remove some confusion and multiple choices, so to speak!

Sadly, I have also noted that many dealers and some large dealerships have either elected or been forced to close their doors. This is the opportunity to which I am referring. If dealers in your area have either closed or reduced brand offerings, the boat lines they once carried are now, most likely, again available in your market. If those brands are of interest to you I recommend you evaluate how they might fit into your business plan and enhance your bottom line.

I am not suggesting you add more brands, but rather that you assess a brand that has now become available to see if it bolsters your consumer offering more than your current brand. This is the time to be making those assessments, for I am sure you would agree that most all boat, trailer and engine manufacturers are anxious to plug any openings that have been created during this economic cleansing.

Please don’t misunderstand. It would not be in your best interest to begin growing your brand offerings. What I believe you should consider is checking the market in your area. Determine what brands might be acquirable and if that specific brand would enhance your overall sales, prestige and profits. If the answer is yes, then you should contact the appropriate company and pursue the brand. You should also consider what you will be eliminating in order to obtain this new brand. Do not get caught in the trap of expanding inventory and overhead! You cannot “buy up” competition and should not even go down the path of having “all the best brands” for it is too costly for you and unfair to your multiple brands. Concentrate on limited but well thought out offerings and train yourself and your employees to become experts in those brands.

Some thoughts for your consideration:

  • Has the brand I am considering been received well in the community?
  • Does the brand retain a good reputation?
  • What would I expect the volume to be the first year and growth for the next 5 years?
  • What would I be required to purchase for initial order?
  • What would I be required to retain on display at all times?
  • What is the financial stability of the new brand?
  • Where is the nearest dealer for this brand?
  • What is the delivery time on “new” orders?
  • What is the finance program being offered (if any)?
  • Will this new brand diminish sales of my other retained brands?
  • What profit margin can I expect?
  • And importantly…  is this an ego trip, or something that will actually benefit my business, bring in new customers and support future growth?

While none of us want to enhance our position by feeding on the misfortune of others, we must remember that these opportunities have already been created by the former dealer, the bank or the brand. You are simply examining whether the opportunity might be of benefit to you, your company and your employees.

It never hurts to talk to the specific company or the local company rep. They, like you, will be looking for a better means to enhance their position in the industry, satisfy their specific market needs and retain their current consumer allegiance and trust.

Make the choices that are best for your dealership today and tomorrow. Remember, loyalty is important to the process, so be comfortable that any decisions you make have included your consideration of loyalty to both your current brand and that of the replacement brand.

Good luck! I hope your decisions enhance your confidence and sales at future shows and the 2010 boating year.

About Henry H. "Skip" Hegel

Henry H. “Skip” Hegel, former marine dealer, has held sales and service management positions with OMC and Mercury Marine. He lives with his wife in Pinehurst, NC. For more info, click Contributors on the main menu.

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