|Future of Marine Dealerships|
The recreational boating industry and, especially, marine dealers have experienced enormous changes in the past three years. But, in my estimation, the next two years will force even more developments upon marine dealers. Already, floor plan credit for dealers and consumer credit are no longer available in the amounts and terms to which dealers and customers were accustomed. What will marine dealerships look like in 2010, 2011 and beyond? I believe we will see marine dealers develop increasingly stronger links to consumers.
First, marine dealers will stock and display far less inventory in the coming year. Fewer models and lines will be available. Marine dealers will also be faced with very different customers. Shoppers will become even more educated on styles, benefits and, most assuredly, pricing. Dealers will have to continue to improve their presentations to potential purchasers.
Second, dealers must court local banks and credit unions to increase consumer-financing options. The dealerships of the future will also sell their wares to consumers who will need to have higher credit scores, make larger down payments and live with shorter terms. Being able to address these stricter consumer guidelines will surely define which marine dealers make it through these difficult times.
Third, the dealer will have to increase its breadth. In an ever-shrinking community of dealers, manufacturers and consumers will be seeking dealers for warranty work and service. Manufacturers will possibly want dealers to deliver boats sold online to consumers in areas where no dealer for that brand exists.
Fourth, marine dealers must become much more astute when they interact with manufacturers. The price of a product—the best deal—may have to take a back seat. All of a manufacturer’s financial support systems will have to be examined. Participating in financing and providing marketing assistance are just two of the aspects that dealers will have to consider. Territorial protection and strong warranty programs will be paramount to dealers.
Fifth, the growth in the marine industry will come first in boats less than 30 feet in length. The trailerable boat customer will become a larger segment of recreational boating in the future, and dealers will have to prepare for that.
We have already experienced dealer and manufacturer failures, loss of consumers and low margins. Unfortunately, more changes will probably surface, but dealers who are willing to change their modus operandi will endure.