Welcome to the July Editorial. Half of the year is gone. Soon the industry is going to try to put this year behind us and start preparing for next year. That was the way it was in the past. The past before the pandemic. The past before the digital revolution. The past when Baby Boomers ruled the world. Let me tell you about a NEW way.
Those of you who have been in the industry for some time, may agree with me. This is a rough outline and is obviously, one man’s opinion. In the past, there was a certain, unwritten seasonality curve to the recreational diving industry. January through March was the pre-season consumer show circuit. Divers, both consumers and Industry Trade Professionals attended or exhibited at the major Regional Dive Shows; Boston Sea Rovers, Beneath the Sea, Our World-Underwater, Sea Space and Scuba Show. April and May was the time our Dive Stores stocked up with inventory and scheduled their classes. The recreational diving season began on Memorial Day and went through Labor Day. That’s when the kids (and Teachers) were out of school, and that’s the period we called “Summer.” Even though the kids were back in school in September, the month was still good for the diving business. In California, the first week of October was the beginning of Lobster Season ad after that, the industry went into hibernation until the following year. Sure, there were regional differences based on the local weather but basically, this was the rhythm of recreational diving industry.
On the trade side of the Industry, January through March was the pre-season consumer show push. The Sales Reps were out in force in April and May. Retailers were stocked up by the end of May. Retailers and Charter Boat Operators worked the season from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Product Managers were getting samples ready to go during the summer so the Manufacturers could have their Sales Meeting in August. The day after Labor Day, September 5th, was the beginning of the next season for the major manufacturers. The Sales Reps visited their accounts with their new samples and took orders for the following year. Sometimes, the Retail Dealers even had new merchandise for the Holiday Buying Season in December. Once the majors tied up their Dealers’ “open to buy” budget for the next season, the industry started to prepare for its annual Trade Show that was held in January and then later changed to November. After a little rest and relaxation in January and February, the cycle started again. Same stuff – different year.
I believe all that has changed. Here’s why. Number one, the recreational diving industry has matured. In the past 70 years, the industry has grown and matured. The diving equipment has reached a certain level of sophistication and professionalism. Scuba training is fairly standard and well thought out and refined. Dive and Adventure Travel has blossomed and become a primary reason why people take up the recreation to begin with. The next major sales category, yet to take hold in the industry, is the sale of Lifestyle Products. Right now, we are at the “We sell T-Shirts” level, but I seriously believe the retail industry will do what the Boating, Fishing and Surfing Industries have done for years – Capitalize on the sale of Lifestyle Products; swimwear, apparel, jewelry, marine art, etc. Most retail stores that focus on soft goods as opposed to hard goods see a dramatic increase in total revenue and gross profits.
The second reason the business of diving has changed is because of the digitization of text, images and objects. New computer hardware and software has been developed in the past 20 years, making our daily tasks easier, faster and more professional. Our advertising and marketing methods have become so sophisticated that even small business entrepreneurs can successfully operate, manage and analyze their business quickly and easily. Reaching and communicating with our customers has never been as easy and professional as it is today.
The third reason our industry has changed is because our customer base has changed. Boomers no longer rule. We’re old, we’re tired and we don’t dive as much. Of course, when we do, we spend a lot of money doing it. More so than some new divers. But that is not going to last very much longer, I’m sad to say. Still, a new generation is coming into their own. They are educated, employed and spending money on recreation. It’s our job to determine who they are, where they get their purchasing information, where they buy, when they buy, why they buy and how they buy. That should be the goal of every Dive Industry Professional Business today.
A third reason, of course is the covid pandemic and all the changes that have happened because of it. I don’t want to beat a dead horse here, but the pandemic has changed the way we recreate, travel and allocate our time.
The fourth, and final reason I want to mention (although there are more), is that the business landscape has changed. From my perspective, and I normally follow over 8,000 Dive Industry Professionals, Worldwide, I have personally seen many changes. I have noticed that many Island and Country Tourism Bureaus have laid off their Marketing Representatives and temporarily closed their offices. Tourism Bureaus, collectively have done a very poor job of communicating with their former customers during the pandemic. As the pandemic situation improves I am pretty confident they will hire new people, rent new office space and make an attempt to get their old clients back. Talk about reinventing the wheel. The Resort Destinations have had a very difficult time with lack of support from tourist revenue or from their own governments. Some have closed down, some are waiting to reopen, and a few are back in business. The Industry’s Dive Travel Wholesalers, for the most part, have been working their butts off during the pandemic. Dealing with airline and resort cancellations and refunds have been a nightmare for them. Servicing their account base of Retail Dive Travel Specialists has become a full time job and more. It is difficult to know how many Retail Dive Stores we lost during the pandemic. We know it’s a lot, but we will not know for sure until we ask and get answers back.
Can we agree that the business landscape has changed? So, what is the industry doing about it? For the most part, nothing. As pandemic restrictions are lifted, many Dive Industry Professionals will try to go back to the way it was before the crises. I personally don’t think that is wise. Things have changed. We need to change. But how? Before we can answer that question we need to get some information from the International Dive Business Community.
In my next article (blog) I will lay out what the Dive Industry Foundation is doing to redefine the Channels of Distribution that we use in the recreational diving industry to move programs, products and services from Conception to Consumption. The article is called, Stand Up And Be Counted. The Blog will be published on www.diveindustry.org It is all about four major surveys being conducted by the non-profit Foundation. Hitting the streets this month are four Industry-Wide Surveys for Dive Manufacturers, Manufacturing Sales Reps, Retail Dive Stores and the Dive Travel Industry.
You may have already seen three of the four surveys in the Dive Industry Association’s Weekly Dive News last Tuesday. If not, see them now at Weekly Dive News
Our Mission at the Dive Industry Association is to use the results of the surveys conducted by the Dive Industry Foundation and redefine the Channels of Distribution for the sectors that sell Diving Equipment, Training, Travel and Lifestyle Products. With an established channel of distribution for each sector, our Mission will change to bringing Buyers & Sellers together for mutual benefit. As more buyers and sellers do business, it is a matter of professional marketing to grow the size of the recreational diving market and grow the industry.
As a Dive Industry Professional, isn’t that what you want too?
For more information, contact:
Gene Muchanski, Executive Director
Dive Industry Foundation