by Patrick Hammer, President
Scuba Emporium & Our World Underwater
June 3, 2014
Are Local Dive Shows Needed?
When I look back over the past 40 years that I have been in the dive industry, it amazes me how far we have come and then I wonder, what lies ahead? Most of today’s divers don’t know that the first dive shows were local dive shows and that they were very small. They basically were the divers’ off-season entertainment with a little education thrown in. They were a way of divers getting together to talk about the past dive season, to plan for the next season and to see what new equipment was out there.
One might think, that after all these years and with the advent of the Internet that local dive shows have lost their value. They are expensive endeavors for all the parties involved. Manufacturers and training agencies supporting the local shows have to budget well in advance to make a successful show. The same is true for travel companies, publications and DIVE Centers. So how should we look at the local dive shows?
To put things in perspective one must first remember that almost all local dive shows support or are them selves supported by a not-for-profit. These non-profits do more than any one company can do to support the dive industry. From New York to California, or for that matter even South America to Germany, England and elsewhere consumer dive shows are a big part of our industry and their benefits are far reaching. When you look at what the shows and non-profits have done alone for diving that is reason enough to support every show. Just think how many children have been introduced to diving, how many careers have been kicked started by diving, and how many projects have been realized from grants from the shows and their not-for-profits. Besides financial support local dive shows offer not-for-profits greater exposure than they could normally obtain on their own.
I original asked, “Were local dive shows needed?” The trend we are seeing with today’s dive stores is that the stores are not caring huge inventories. They are stocking only what they can turn quickly and as to other equipment or goods that a customer may want, well, they just order it when the customer asked for it. With this new way of conducting business, the local dive show may be the ONLY way a manufacturer can display all their products. As a retailer, I know that for weeks following a dive show people come in to see if we are stocking something they saw at the show. In many cases, we don’t have what they are looking for in stock, but we will of course order it for them. This phenomenon is clear proof that local dive shows are a great avenue for the manufacturers to show off their products, gain exposure and increase their market share. This also works out well for the local dive stores who are dependents on the manufacturer’s support for their product lines.
What does the future hold and who should we focus on? With nearly 250,000 Americans retiring every month, it should be known that SCUBA has become a dream come true for many of them. Every dive show and dive store needs to focus on this group for the next few years. They have the time and money to dive but the dive industry as a whole most focus their attention on them otherwise they may be drawn to other outlets. The importance of local dive shows can’t be under stressed here given that they generally spend more money in advertising dollars than all the dive stores combined in a given area.
If the dive shows can bring in just 10-percent of this group and make divers out of them, think what good that will do for the industry. Training agencies will love the increase in certifications. Equipment manufacturers will love the increase in sales. However, the real winner here beside dive stores will be the travel destinations. All consumers love going to the shows to plan their next travel holiday. It may be a trip to Bonne Terre Mines or the Caymans. It could be a liveaboard or the South Pacific. It doesn’t matter which warm destination we are talking about, but this group of retired people or can we now call them potential customers are hot to dive and they are going to discover diving and all its beauty at a dive show.
Lastly what are the shows doing for the local diver? I have already touched on a few key points, but the dive shows get local divers motivated to dive and travel more. The shows offer educational and informative seminars, serious workshops and even film festivals that exalt our sport. From education, to equipment purchases, shows are a place for divers to communicate with other divers.
A few years ago I was at a show and someone mentioned that they keep seeing the same faces here. It was not my place, but I wanted to tell them, that was great and that we as an industry should welcome these people returning year after year. It demonstrated to me that dive shows work at keeping divers active in the sport. I always like to think of the Boston Sea a Rovers, one of the oldest dive shows, and what a great job they have done for all these years keeping hardy divers diving. I think that is something to be proud of.
Local dive shows are a needed and necessary part of our industry. Without the support of all the players these shows cannot survive. To lose any show would be a step backwards. Just look at the good that the shows do, and the support they give to every aspect of the industry
For fun, education, dive planning, equipment advice or just a great weekend be sure to support your local shows
Happy diving, see you at the next show!
Having participated as an exhibitor in most of the domestic (US) dive shows over the past 15 years or so I can assure you that local dive shows are a great way to not only attract potential new divers but to also reconnect with certified divers who may be very active divers or who have become somewhat inactive (marriage, kids, etc.) and are looking to get back into diving.
A very important facet of the dive shows that is critically important to the show’s success is the participation of dive equipment manufacturers. Many of the shows have turned into travel shows with plenty of destinations all vieing for the attention of the attendees. But let’s be honest, there’s not much they could learn at a dive show that they can’t find out online. Sure they can actually ask questions to a representative who is, hopefully, well versed in the destination and there’s always plenty of chances to win trips. Even the seminars presented at most of the shows are mainly destination or travel oriented.
However if more manufacturers participated in the shows, attendees now have the opportunity to actually see and touch and feel and try new gear and accessories. You can’t do that online. The attendee knows that s/he will be talking with someone who is very familiar with the equipment they’re representing and be able to direct that potential customer to the dive shops in the area that sell the gear. (With any luck that dive shop would also be at the show). THAT is a huge reason for a diver to make the effort to get to a local dive show. Let’s face it, how many of us would go to DEMA each year if it was just a travel show?
I’ve had long discussions with manufacturers who have claimed that they just couldn’t afford to exhibit at all of the local shows. I’m not buying that. I’m one dive shop on St. Croix and I travel to most of the shows. Is it expensive? Yes. Is it productive? Yes (or I wouldn’t be going). Airfare, hotel, booth space, freight, meals, prizes, rum (in my case) all add up. The manufacturers however normally have local or area representatives thereby cutting down on travel. They have local dive shops who can provide the equipment to be displayed thus cutting down on freight.
To their credit Scubapro and Aqualung have stepped up their participation in local and regional shows and I think other exhibitors have noticed the increase in traffic to those shows as a result.
I believe that the participation of manufacturers is critical to the success of local dive show and can greatly contribute to keeping divers interest in continuing to scuba dive. The manufacturers will give the divers a reason to go to the show then it’s up to a destination representative like me to convince them (through rum or other means) to come dive with me.
“The Rum Guy”
St. Croix Ultimate Bluewater Adventures (SCUBA)