Thursday, October 13, 2011
Tradeonlytoday.com published an opinion piece, Boat rentals are a viable option to boat ownership. Trade Only Today covers the marine industry and the story was interesting for the story it tells of the plunge in new boat sales since 1988.
Here are excerpts you need to read:
"Although the world, and especially commerce, has undergone a wholesale transformation since 1988, how the recreational boating industry markets its products remains little changed and the engine that drives the entire industry — new-boat sales — has dropped into a black hole. From 1988 to 2010 annual sales of new outboards have plummeted from 355,000 to 112,000, inboards from 20,900 to 7,300, sterndrives from 148,000 to 18,700 and sailboats from 14,500 to 4,300.
"Although all sorts of studies have been commissioned in recent years by and for the marine industry, common sense tells me three things: First, new boats have become just too expensive to be sold at the rate they once were; second, it’s increasingly hard to justify putting a boatload of money into a fixed asset that sits at a dock and may only be used a few times a month; and third, folks just don’t have the time to devote to one recreation anymore, especially if their children would rather spend their time on Facebook than fishing or facing into the wind offshore.
"It’s an article of faith in our industry that boating can’t be compared with other industries. That said, a look at other industries is instructive. Before the Great Recession as much as 25 percent of all new cars were leased, with the luxury BMW brand at the top of the list, leasing 85.7 percent of its 7 Series automobiles. To strengthen its share of this market, BMW earlier this year launched a $100 million fund — BMW i Ventures — to invest in companies that will, among other things, develop alternatives to traditional car ownership."
Michael Sciulla, vice president of the Marine Marketers of America, wrote the opinion piece. He gently scores his industry for its sense of uniqueness that inhibits open-mindedness to new business solutions. That is only human nature. Every industry says "we're different" and are blind to successful new concepts developed by other businesses to solve similar problems.
The economy that sustained marine industry growth in the 1970s and '80s is never coming back, says Sciulla (Tell me about it!). The auto, travel and vacation property industry found ways to cope by parsing ownership into slices of use for a fraction of the cost. Full ownership of luxury items are a barrier to next gen customer whose lifestyle leads them away from the hobby.
New boat sales sputter as the engine of the industry. Rentals, boat clubs, fractional shares, syndication are solutions. Groupon and Living Social are new marketing channels. Sciulla wants the industry to wake up to this before it sinks.
Read the full opinion piece here.
Charting a new course for boat membership groups
The Power Squadrons faces similar issues. Membership waxes and wanes with the industry. But, the nation's oldest non-profit boating safety, education and social membership group may be slow to adapt to next gen members. Power Squadrons membership at fewer than 45,000 pales in comparison to BoatUS with over 500,000 members. (By the way, the correct term is always "Power Squadrons" plural.)
The United States Power Squadrons™ and BoatUS are allied organizations. Every active boating Power Squadrons member I know is also a member of BoatUS. BoatUS is an association not unlike AAA. Like AAA, most boaters join BoatUS for the towing service, the on water equivalent of road service. The touch point of BoatUS members to the association is a PC screen, or these days one of those handheld thingies.
The Power Squadrons is a face-to-face membership group, with face-to-face being both and attractant and an inhibitor. I look at power Squadron members and see that we are all (ahem) "seasoned," at or near the end of our employment life. Squadron and national leaders have a vague sense that we may be missing the next generation members because their lifestyle allows less time for meetings. BoatUS may be on to something with that.
The Power Squadrons is adapting, if slowly. The Governing Board approved selling its excellent education texts direct. Boating courses and memberships are offered online. It has simplified its membership tiers and the confusing dues structure that came with it.
But the Power Squadrons is still all volunteer all the time. That lowers cost, but restricts some of its capabilities. A visit to the national and local web pages illustrate the point. They are functional, but are not as slick as BoatUS, AAA or your college alumni association web pages.
The Power Squadrons has a private area on the SailAngle social media site to facilitate internal communication—that current members resist using (Get over it, people!). There is no national United States Power Squadrons outreach on SailAngle or Facebook to reach 21st Century boaters, the only way to reach and maintain an ongoing relationship with that demographic.
The Power Squadrons excels at keeping hands-on navigation skills alive for recreational captains at a fraction of the cost of commercial schools. That is a family jewel and must remain so. (A person who completes all of the Power Squadrons' core courses can navigate anywhere in the world with the proper charts and a sextant.) On most other things, we could use a few new ideas to expand our reach beyond face-to-face. Before we sink.