Editorial – January 2023

cropped-gene-roatan-1.jpgBecoming an Engaged Dive Industry Professional
by Gene Muchanski, Editor
The Dive Industry Professional

The biggest bottleneck to growth in the recreational diving industry today is fragmentation.   The industry wasn’t always fragmented.  In fact, early pioneers in the 1960’s worked together to unify the industry by working together and focusing on the goals and agendas they had in common.  As a young man and a newly certified diver, I saw our recreation break away from the Sporting Goods Industry and begin to take shape as the diving industry.  It was an amazing paradigm shift to watch, study, and become a part of.  Interesting to note, the breaking away from the Sporting Goods Industry and creating a new, smaller Diving Industry, was in fact a fragmentation strategy.  Keep this in mind because it is happening again in the 2020’s for reasons I will explain.

The diving equipment manufacturers were the first to break away and unite under a single banner.  They invited the sales representatives to join them as they worked to develop and sell to the retail dive store market.  Seeing the need to safely train people how to use underwater breathing equipment before allowing them to make a purchase, the certification agencies developed training programs to teach and certify Instructors, who could in turn teach new divers.  As diving became more popular, more certification agencies entered the market.  Did you know there are over 50 certification agencies today?  Most of the diving in the early days was local diving, although the concept of dive travel entered the market and began to grow.  The industry saw a flurry of diving magazines, dive shows, and dive clubs introduced into the market.  That kept divers diving and was a key factor in the recruitment of new divers.  In my opinion, based only on personal experience, the diving industry was in full bloom in the early 1990’s but unfortunately was also at its historical peak.

From the beginning days until 2019 (COVID Pandemic) we saw the growth and prominence of the dive equipment manufacturers, certification agencies, and travel companies.  The only group that declined significantly was the retail dive store sector.  In the 1990’s there were over 2,400 dive stores and yet today there may be only 1,200 dive stores in the United States.  But there is a silver lining to this declining niche market.  It’s a positive post-pandemic paradigm shift for Retail Dive Centers and Dive Industry Professionals who become actively engaged in the Global Diving Business Network.

Even though we have lost a number of dive stores, the ones that have stayed in business have gotten bigger and have grown.  It’s getting harder to compete against the more organized and professionally run dive stores in this country, without changing the way you do business.  The ones that have focused on creating their own local market and selling to it are doing well.  Retailers are the focal point where the supply chain meets the demand chain.  They realize that by focusing on the sales of diving equipment, training, travel, and lifestyle products they can pretty much control the industry’s main channels of distribution.  If retail stores adapt a strategy to teach people how to dive, sell them the equipment they need, take them diving, and keep them active in our recreation, they can carve out a sizable market share locally, regionally, and maybe even nationally.  Successful retailers realize they are the primary ambassadors of the recreation and if they are well informed as to all of the options they have in the Global Diving Business Network, they can pick and choose the best vendors to partner with to serve their client base.  The world, in fact, could be their oyster.

If the Retail Dive Centers are the focal point of the Global Diving Business Network, then Dive Industry Professionals are the ones who make it work.  There are more options available to Dive Industry Professionals today than ever before.  They have their pick of over 800 manufacturers to buy equipment and diving related products from, over 50 certification agencies to affiliate with, and over 800 diving resorts and dive operators to work for or partner with.   Being a Dive Industry Professional gives you a plethora of choices in diving equipment, training, travel, and lifestyle products.  But only if you take the time to learn about the Global Diving Business Network and get engaged.

During the pandemic era, I believe the industry was heading down the road of increased fragmentation.  Probably because of declining sales, increased supply shortages, declining interest in scuba diving, the cancellation of trade and consumer dive shows, and of course, declining marketing budgets.   As we enter the post pandemic period we are going to be faced with high inflation, a possible major recession, more supply chain shortages, or worst is accelerated supply chain activity coupled with declining consumer sentiment.   As these economic conditions unravel our industry, you may see equipment manufacturers exit trade and consumer shows, reduce their marketing budgets, reduce their staff, and make an expensive attempt to maximize their current Dealer’s purchases by increasing Dealer requirements.   I don’t even want to discuss the foolishness of trying to sell direct to the final consumers.  Other sectors of the industry are already circling their wagons to get their current customers to only do business with them.  As I’ve heard so many times before, you just can’t keep all the good ones on the farm anymore!

In my opinion, any of the abovementioned tactics will only increase the fragmentation of the industry and force all qualified buyers of equipment, training, travel, and lifestyle products to seek out sources (and associations) that define and market to the current, in business, working members of the Global Diving Business Community.  There is strength in unity and more available options in a well-defined, organized, and unified industry.  Marketing the message of industry unity and product availability is the Dive Industry Association.  Three marketing tools were developed to assist buyers and sellers to do business with each other.  1) The Weekly Dive News Press Release Service.  2) The monthly trade magazine, The Dive Industry Professional.  3) The Annual Trade Directory & Buyers Guide.  Each marketing tool has its own page on the Association’s website at www.diveindustry.net

The Dive Industry Association will lay out its vision for industry unity and growth by introducing a 12-part series entitled, Becoming an Engaged Dive Industry Professional, starting with the January Edition of The Dive Industry Professional.  The completed series will be published as a white paper for the entire diving industry.

This is an exciting time to become part of the Global Diving Business Network.  For more information, contact Gene Muchanski, Executive Director of the Dive Industry Association, 2294 Botanica Circle, West Melbourne, FL 32904.  Phone: 321-914-3778.  email: gene@diveindustry.net  Web: www.diveindustry.net

About Gene Muchanski

Executive Director at Dive Industry Association. Board Member at Dive Industry Foundation. Marketing Consultant to the Diving Industry. I have been a certified Scuba Diver since I was 15 years old and have been a passionate waterman for as long as I can remember.
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