The Evolution or Unraveling of the Diving Industry –
by Gene Muchanski
Editor, The Dive Industry Professional
The Diving Industry Association is celebrating its Twenty Year Anniversary in April. It’s time to renew our “vows” and offer our services and support to the international diving community for the next twenty years. The decision to renew our commitment is an easy one to make. The part that makes me pause to think about what we are offering, is another story. As a community, are our needs the same they were 20 years ago? In fact, do we have the same needs we had 40 years ago? If our needs are different, then the solution is an easy one. Do something new that meets the current needs of the market. But if our needs are the same as they have always been, then we MUST do something new because what we did in the past 40 years didn’t work.
For the past few years I have been sharply focusing on meeting the current needs of dive industry professionals. To me, it’s all about helping business owners and managers make their companies more professional, more proficient and more profitable. Growing professionally means learning new skills and staying abreast of your industry’s best practices. Becoming more proficient means getting the most done with the least investment of your time, money and manpower. Being more profitable means that you invested your time, money and manpower correctly and received a suitable return on your investment.
Running a business is a combination of art and science. First of all, you have to know how to run a business and there has to be someone in your company who focuses on running the business, not doing the things a business does. Running a business is about buying, merchandising, marketing, selling, accounting and law. Doing the things a business does means you are teaching classes, selling equipment, conducting travel, repairing equipment and the hundreds of other things entrepreneurs do.
Forty years ago we had 2,400 dive stores in the United States. Today we have about 1,200. I don’t call a 50% decline in our retail sector a success! In fact, if this trend continues, there won’t be a diving industry in the near future. The reason for the decline is obvious to many in the industry but for one reason or the other, not everyone wants to talk about it. I would like to share with you some explanation about this decline that I discovered recently when reorganizing and streamlining my industry notes and publications from the past forty years.
Recently I have been reorganizing my diving industry books, magazines, catalogs, brochures and notes. It’s one way of throwing out a bunch of junk but saving the important documents for future use. The goal is to turn our business of diving history into a workable business library that can be accessed by our Members and Sponsors.
Many of the books and magazines I have from the 1960’s shows scuba diving as a recreation starting up and growing. A flurry of content was written about scuba diving education. The decade was all about learning to dive. The 70’s showed divers buying gear to spearfish, photograph and travel. The certification agencies were teaching divers to become instructors who could, in turn, teach more divers. The sale of diving equipment had a long way to go and travel was still a luxury. I saw the retail sector boom in the 1980’s. The focus now was on teaching people how to dive, selling them gear and taking them diving locally. Retail stores were doing very well. Training Agencies were growing and getting more sophisticated. Their books and training aids were better than ever. Equipment Manufacturers were in charge of the industry and sales were good. The travel Industry was starting to grow and offering some amazing diving opportunities outside of the United States.
During the peak years of scuba diving as a recreation, the sale of diving equipment, training and travel was substantial and definitely the focus of the industry. The one subject matter that did not grow correctly was the Business of Diving. Very little was written about the need for professional business training in the recreation. With the exception of one training agency that promoted itself as a Training Agency for Dive Shops, what was written about business topics for dive industry professionals was limited and lacking in quality. Another major short-coming about the business articles of the time was that it was limited to dive stores only. No one wrote or talked about the need for Manufacturers, Sales Reps, Training Agencies or Travel Companies to learn about starting a business, running a successful business or succeeding in business. Much of what I read about the business of diving in the 80’s was written by non-business people who had never owned and operated a business and for that matter, never worked in the diving industry.
Starting around 1990, the retailing sector began its decline, knowing a lot about training, equipment repair and travel, but knowing very little about the business of diving. We know that dive retailing is highly competitive and it takes a large capital investment to get started. It also takes a hugh invest in time and talent to successfully operate. A dive store owner needs to understand the products, the market and the profession. The profession includes, retailing, merchandising, computing, sales, marketing, accounting, law, and human resources.
In the coming year, the Dive Industry Foundation plans to research the dive community’s past business of diving training history. Our hope is to work with dive industry professionals to fill the gap with solid dive business training. One of our researchers will be asking the dive community for books, magazines and business articles we current don’t have but need. Business of Diving information can be shared with Gene Muchanski at firstname.lastname@example.org