Cleaning up profits

Dealers, marinas can grow business with new products

Carrying a complete line of chemicals can help dealers and marinas realize new sales and profits.

Even during the recession as boat sales struggled, accessory sales and participation rates stayed high. Cleaners, waxes and polishes are a great way to bring those boaters into a dealership, which can lead to additional peripheral sales. The opportunity becomes only greater as boat sales continue to grow.

Boating Industry talked to three leading chemical companies about their products and the benefits carrying cleaners, waxes and polishes can offer a dealer or marina.

Growth opportunity

It’s something every boater does: they go into the store for one thing, and realize they need also need this widget and that gadget and maybe they should look at the new wakeboards …

A full selection of cleaners can be a good way to get them to take that first step into the store, even if they’re not in the market for a new boat or prop right now. It also builds that brand loyalty when the time comes that they do need to make that larger purchase.

Starbrite“Customers do go to stores to buy the chemicals and that’s when they realize they need something else,” said Erik Applegate, part of the sales team at Star brite. “It drives customers to the store and increases sales throughout the entire store.”

Applegate recommends carrying a large selection of chemicals to allow for cross promotion of products throughout the line. Star brite does just that on all of its labeling, encouraging consumers to consider others of the 1,000-plus chemicals the company makes.

“The chemical section of the store is the highest-margin throughout the entire store. You need chemicals in your store no matter what, so why not have the largest breadth,” he said. “They are consumable. You can’t just buy deck cleaner one time and use it. You’re going in there and once it’s gone you get it again and again.”

Tom Bingham, director of marketing at Gold Eagle/303 Products, agrees with that and also notes the “great opportunity” for attachment sales.

“If you get someone who runs in and is looking for some lube or 2-cycle oil, these folks tend to be very high-involvement consumers,” he said. “By giving them even a small selection of very core items, [dealers] can source revenue that they don’t have today.”

Choosing the right partner(s)

When deciding to add a chemical line or increase offerings, it’s important to be working with the right companies. There are several factors to consider from the company’s reputation to the amount of marketing it does to display options to customer service.

Find a company that stands behinds its products and will be there to support you, said John Thompson, president of Sudbury Boat Care.
“We’ve been around since 1950, when we were selling bilge cleaner for $1.25,” he said. “We’re a chemical manufacturer, not a marketing company. I’m not having someone manufacture it for me and then put my label on it.”

303bottlesA company with integrity and a long history is important, Bingham agreed, noting Gold Eagle’s 83 years in business.

“There are people that are trying to sell snake oil and there are people that are delivering a quality product,” he said.

Customer service is important, too, notes Applegate. Star brite knows that boaters often need guidance in deciding which product to use and that it can be difficult for dealers to have depth of knowledge about every last item they carry. That’s why the company offers a help line that customers can “call and talk to a real person,” Applegate said.

While those are all major factors, in the end, the company has to carry the right products to meet customers’ needs.

Knowing your clients – whether they be owners of high-end yachts, aluminum fishing boats or everything in between – is the key to making the right decisions.

“Every marina is a different circumstance, but clearly the higher-end clientele … drive more product revenue,” Bingham said.

That said, “there are a lot of premium products out there that aren’t appropriate,” he said. “You’ve got to match your clientele to your product line. It comes down to high-volume products, products that move.”

In general, those high-volume products are items such as protectants for vinyls and bimini tops, waxes, hull and deck cleaners, rust-stain removers and mold and mildew removers.

Eco-friendly “green” cleaners and other chemicals are also becoming more important. Consumers are growing increasingly environmentally conscious in their buying and new government regulations continue to affect the industry as well.

“We feel that the green will come more into play as we go forward,” Thompson said. “We are really pushing our ‘Eco’ products, which work just as well as our traditional cleaners.”


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