DIRA – Dive Industry Retailers Association
by Gene Muchanski, Executive Director
Dive Industry Association, Inc.
The Dive Retailers Sector of the Dive Industry Association was formed to address the problems, issues and needs that are relevant to the modern day Retail Dive Center, or as I like to call them, Scuba Diving Adventure Centers. The Association is open to all Professional Retail Watersport Stores regardless of their membership or affiliation with any Manufacturer, Training Agency or Travel Wholesaler.
Retail Scuba Diving Adventure Centers are critically important to the health and growth of our recreation. As we saw in our “Dive Local” campaign, stores perform the four main functions of the industry. They teach people how to dive, sell them equipment, take them diving and keep them active in the recreation. Stores are the focal point of every diving community. Primarily, they are open to the public and serve as the first point of contact a person has with scuba diving. They are our industry ambassadors as well as our service representatives and local experts on everything that has to do with diving.
First Point of Contact: People come in contact with scuba diving in many ways. A Retail business should make sure they are covering as many of them as they can. First point of contact could be having a commercial location that people can patronize. Personal contact also means meeting people at dive shows and introducing them to your store. Having a good web site is a very important means of first contact, with the new generation as is having a strong, active presence on social media. Having an aggressive outreach campaign using the phones and email is a big plus. Being known as the local diving expert in your community is the best industry builder we have. We are all Dive Industry Ambassadors. Now we just have to get excited about it.
Teaching People to Dive: Teaching scuba diving classes and continuing education is a big part of dive retailing. There is so much to learn in pursuit of our recreation. Entry level courses and advanced diver training makes us more knowledgeable in diving and hopefully a safer diver. Photography and other specialty course keeps that interest going.
Selling Equipment: You can’t scuba dive without gear. Making sure your scuba student learns about the equipment is at least 1/3 of the training. Scuba Divers who invest in their own equipment, dive more often. Occasional divers have a tendency to rent their gear. Either way, equipping our Divers is a major function of dive retailing.
Go Diving: Once you learn to dive and buy your gear, it’s time to go diving. Local diving is the logical way to begin. A successful dive store will have a dive club that customers can participate in. Local dives, boat dives and vacation trips are all good ways to keep your divers diving. It’s important to remember, having an active diving calendar at your store gives your customers a reason to purchase diving equipment. People only buy gear when they have a reason to do so.
Stay Active: A successful dive store keeps their customers active. Active customers, buy gear, they enroll in continuing education, they go on trips and they refer their friends to you. There are many ways to stay active in the recreation. Continuing education is one. Participating in a Dive Club is another. Subscribing to dive magazine is a great one. And my favorite is attending the annual dive show in your territory.
In summary, that’s why Scuba Diving Adventure Centers are important to the diving industry. Our Retailers are the local diving experts and ambassadors. They work in the business on a full or part-time basis. They teach diving, sell equipment, go diving and keep people active. That’s what they do for the industry. But, what does the Industry do for them? Rather than say, “Nothing” or “We sell them a lot of equipment” or “We sell them a lot of Certifications” or “We charge them annual dues to buy stuff from us” , let’s mention the things we can do to help them succeed and grow the industry.
Partner with them at Regional Dive Shows: Manufacturers, Certification Agencies, and Travel Wholesalers should sponsor their local retailers at dive and travel shows. The price of a booth may be cost prohibitive for a single Retail Store but is well within the budget for a vendor who has many Dealers in a region. The perfect co-op happens when the vendor pays for the booth and the freight for the display, the Local Sales Representative organizes and manages the staffing schedule, and the local dive store personnel staff the booth. That’s a WIN – WIN – WIN.
Sponsor a Regional Meeting and Party for your Dealers: How often do you meet with your Dealers? Once a year at DEMA? More if your Rep visits them in person and pays his own way. My question is, “How many times do YOU meet with your Dealers?” I asked a large manufacturer who used to throw a DEMA Party for their Dealers, why they didn’t do it anymore. Their answer was that it cost a lot of money and it didn’t seem important to their Dealers. Of course, we all know that if the Dealers stopped their orders until they got a party, there would be a lot more Dealer Parties at the DEMA Show.
More Co-Op Advertising: There is a dangerous trend of vendors going directly to the consumer to sell programs, products and services. Not only is it time consuming and expensive, it undermines the Dealer. Co-Op advertising is just that, cooperative. Creating a marketing campaign that ties in the Dealer is far more successful when both partners do their fair share in the campaign. Changing your channel of distribution is foolish if it undermines your supply chain.
Give Credit Where Credit is Due: A vendor’s reputation becomes what it is because of the way their Dealers promote them. In my old Southern California Territory, my customers were loyal Scubapro & NAUI Divers or Scubapro & PADI Divers based on the amount of sales, marketing, advertising and promotion I did. Our store helped make the vendors what they were in our territory based on our promotions to our customers, not because their national efforts. I’ve seen major companies rise and fall in sales and reputation based on the amount of local support and promotion they received in a given territory. It’s very foolish, indeed, to think that your company is smarter or bigger than the power of the local dealers.
Give Your Local Dealers a Great Imagine To Live Up To: You promote your company by promoting your local dealers. It’s a smart company that puts their Dealers on a pedestal and promotes them to the local market. People do business with people, not companies. They build relationships with people and loyalty with companies that serve their interests.
Make your company the company people want to do business with because of the people you have in your network. Support your local Dealers, Sales Reps, Product Ambassadors and Mavens.