There are numerous reasons why we need to redefine the way we sell scuba diving equipment. The most fundamental one is the need to adapt to today’s consumers’ expectations. There’s also the need for a business to continually evolve by finding ways to provide more value to the end-users, at a lower cost.
Since we haven’t changed anything in the dive industry in a long while, there is certainly room for improvement.
Selling Scuba Gear — Recap
Let’s recap what we’ve discussed about scuba gear in a few of our other posts.
From our discussion on the Octopus Strategy: Dive Gear vs. Scuba Training, we’ve identified significant differences in where and how consumers shop for scuba diving courses compared to shopping for dive gear.
When shopping for gear, consumers expect the retailer (in-store or online) to have all models in all colors and sizes. They also plan to get it today or, at the latest, tomorrow. Small local dive shops can’t achieve this. Their sales volume can’t justify such an inventory.
A solution we’re putting forward is the Octopus Structure with one central retail store, showroom, and warehouse carrying a large inventory. This central location supports numerous dive schools or independent instructors. That way, instructors can do what they are passionate about (scuba diving) while professional retailers can manage the stores, professionally. It could work pretty smoothly if you provide each instructor with an iPad to perform orders for clients — and some samples in the form of dive gear to use when teaching.
Ideally, all of these entities would operate under one brand name with robust quality assurance for consistency in the quality of the experience.
Direct-to-Consumer in The Scuba Diving Industry
In our discussion on Direct-to-Consumer (D2C) in The Dive Industry, we established that a brand selling scuba gear directly to consumers was right for the consumer and the brand. Of course, it squeezes the traditional retailers.
Well, we may have the perfect industry to implement a variation of direct-to-consumer if it comes along with the octopus strategy discussed above — and a well-developed in-house brand.
The goal would be to expand the association with dive instructors or schools to many different markets. Then, the central showroom/store/warehouse could reach enough volume to invest and develop an in-house brand. There would be only one eCommerce website, but we could have a few showrooms with small local warehouses if the logistic is better that way
Either way, with all of these consumer touchpoints (eCommerce website, stores & showrooms, and the dive schools or independent instructors) operating under the same brand name, we can also have much more efficient marketing and advertising operations. As for the in-house brand, once customers are satisfied and they look for that brand, we’re the only place where they can get it.
We see a lot of value (to consumers and ourselves) in operating under an octopus structure with a centralized location handling all the direct-to-consumer and eCommerce sales and providing logistical and booking support for the local schools in many different places, a credible brand for all of the activity locations, and a well-developed in-house gear brand.
Long-Term Expansion of Product Lines
There are numerous ways we can increase revenues by venturing into activities beyond scuba diving. It is the main focus of our post on widening the net by expanding product & service offerings.
We call this a long-term strategy (maybe medium-term) because it needs proper planning and a revised marketing strategy. Adding standup paddling (SUP) accessories to your inventory is easy. But getting this clientele to come in requires some thinking and planning.
In this post, we will focus on what local dive shops can do, immediately, to increase revenues in selling physical goods.
Selling Scuba Gear: Immediate Product-mix Adjustments
The three strategies summarized above fit well with a redefinition of the dive industry business model to provide more value to consumers, at lower costs to us. But this will take time and proper planning.
In the short-term, there are still actions you can take in your dive center to increase revenues by selling more scuba-related gear.
Adjusting your product-mix means that you may need to carry less of this and more of that. The goal is to sell more with the same dollar amount of inventory.
We know that the sales of hard goods (regulators, BCDs) are down. People don’t want to travel with these big items with the way airlines currently operate. They may also prefer to go diving only one day on a vacation that includes many other activities. On top of that, current scuba gear doesn’t look cool at all to the younger generations. We need to redesign dive gear seriously.
Even the sales of fins-mask-snorkel are trending toward mask-snorkel, only. People want to travel light.
Of course, you may continue to push the sales of these items — but there is just so much success to be had by going against what consumers want.
The good news is that there are products you could sell a lot more of if you adjust the displays in your store and re-train your staff. For instance, wetsuits, dive computers, and accessories.
In DEMA’s Diving Fast Facts, we find a compelling answer to a question about selling scuba gear. The question to scuba divers was: What equipment do you plan to purchase in the next 12 months? The Top 2 answers were Dive Computer (17.3%) and Wetsuit (16.5%). Customers know what they want. Adapt. And benefit from it.
I never see a diver on a dive site with a recreational dive planner. People either dive with computers or wing it, which is wholly irresponsible. So, it may be much more profitable for you to push divers to either have their own dive computer, instead of trying to sell him a regulator.
The selling arguments for a dive computer are numerous. It’s your life! It’s small to carry with you on vacation. It should not be shared. And so on.
I do not understand why we have wetsuits available on rental — or why we lend wetsuits to our students. It doesn’t make any sense to me for hygiene reasons.
Would you consider renting or lending bathing suits? Of course not. It would be unacceptable, nobody does it, and no client would want it. Well, the same rule should apply to wetsuits.
Would you consider renting bathing suits? Of course not. The same rule should apply to wetsuits. Sell them.
I’m also surprised we didn’t yet get bad press coverage about such a questionable business practice.
We really should be selling a wetsuit to every diver we train. For those of you requiring that all your students purchase fins, mask, and snorkel, you should add wetsuit to that list — and get rid of all your rental wetsuits. It will reduce your assets and your need in capital.
Check the summary of the last MSI Index available to DEMA members.
Overall sales of scuba gear were down by 2.7%. Meanwhile, the “accessories” category was the only one showing growth, and it was 4.7%.
I rarely see a complete and proper display of accessories in dive centers I visit. You have to do two things to increase your sales in this category.
- Order a lot of them. Accessories are not something people will order and wait to get a month later.
- Find a merchandising specialist to help you. Accessories must be very visible and preferably near the cash register. Many accessories are sold as an impulse buy.
Skills To Sell Scuba Gear & Outdoor Equipment
No matter what strategy and tactics we implement to sell scuba gear, you’ll get nowhere if the in-store staff is not trained to sell scuba gear.
You are convinced that a scuba diver needs to learn a few skills before going underwater alone with his buddy. The same principle applies to your in-store staff. Don’t throw them in the store and expect great results if they didn’t receive proper sales and customer service training.
To sell scuba gear in this day and age, you have two roads in front of you.
- Option 1: You are currently operating a dive center, and you need to sell more dive gear next month. In this case, start working on revising your product-mix as discussed above, adjust your merchandising, and provide proper sales & customer-service training.
- Option 2: You want to define a new business model for your enterprise to generate outstanding ROI based on delivering more value to the consumer at a lower cost. In this case, you want to include the Octopus and DTC strategies in your plans. And you will want to start with the Blue Ocean strategy framework.
Once a Blue Ocean strategy is established, we can start figuring out the best plan and timetable to roll it out. In such a complete redefinition of the dive industry business model, it’s usually preferable to start with mastering our core products and services (scuba diving) before expanding too much into new products and services. Stretching ourselves too thin often leads to failure.