Q&A: Inventory’s new normal

Boating Industry: Following the recession, there’s been a lot of discussion of change, with talk of a “new normal.” How has your company changed and how do you view the changes in the marine market?

Steve McKee: I would describe change within our company in terms of a more focused attitude and deliberate mindset from our management and staff versus pre-recession. And we see that as a positive. Some operational changes have been made to improve efficiencies, however those may well have been made anyway. We believe most workers in our industry, our company included, better appreciate what we have today than we might have before the downturn. One result seems to be a stronger commitment to personal and team effectiveness.

BI: What is the most important thing you are doing differently than you did before the recession?

SM: An increased inventory level is probably the single-most significant operational change. Many retailers have reduced their accessory and parts inventories and are relying on their suppliers to have product on hand when they need it. This change in the typical dealer buying pattern has increased pressure on our operation with more ordering and shipping activity per dollar of revenue. We’ve embraced this change as a possible long-term situation.

BI: What is the most important thing the industry lost as a result of the economic collapse, and what must be done to adjust to that loss?

SM: Product has moved farther away from the consumer. Understanding why it has happened does not change the fact that there is a cost to the industry when we don’t have as much product readily available in the retail showroom. If this is the new normal and we are not going to see increased investment in showrooms anytime soon, then we need to do the best job we are capable of working with retailers to provide inventory as quickly as possible when it’s called for.

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