By Adam Quandt
It’s no surprise that personal watercraft sales are red-hot. Despite inventory issues, consumers seem to want nothing more than to get out on the water via PWC.
Along with skyrocketing popularity of the activity, PWC riders and owners are also getting into the aftermarket parts game and customizing their machines at an ever-increasing rate.
Boating Industry recently caught up with RIVA Racing president and owner Dave Bamdas to chat about the last year in the aftermarket PWC segment.
“We saw 2020 just take off at an amazing rate in terms of performance parts and accessories for personal watercraft,” Bamdas said. “Now rolling well into 2021, things haven’t slowed down a single bit. It’s just gangbusters demand for our products right now.”
Bamdas reported that RIVA Racing was seeing increases over 2019 in the area of 50% when 2020 wrapped and that the company is still seeing similar increases six months into 2021.
“I’m constantly trying to wrap my head around why we are seeing such huge increases,” Bamdas noted. “I’m consistently asking customers — both on the direct customer and dealer sides — why all of the sudden there’s so much spending and funds for this type of equipment now.”
With customers not traveling as much still and kids typically not signed up for things like summer camps, Bamdas has discovered that much of customers’ available recreational income is just still very focused on recreational vehicles, which leads to upgrades, modifications and accessories.
“Overall, people have just had and taken more time to develop their hobbies,” Bamdas added. “We’re now seeing people who would take their ski out once or twice a month before, now taking the time to be out every weekend, if not more.”
On top of having more time for their machines, Bamdas said a lot of the increased interest in RIVA products could also be attributed to the fact that customers and potential customers alike have been spending more time online.
“We have definitely upped our digital marketing game to make sure we stay in front of everyone,” Bamdas said. “Especially on social media. We love showing off our limited edition machines, not just because they’re awesome, but because they show people what can realistically be done with RIVA parts and accessories.”a
Bamdas noted that the team at RIVA built 60 limited edition watercraft this year to show off what’s capable with the company’s products.
All seems full-steam ahead for the aftermarket PWC world. However, a burst in growth this size, doesn’t come without some hurdles along the way.
Right now it’s a mix of supplier shortages and staffing — with a few other smaller additional challenges — that has the team at RIVA working overtime to ensure they keep customers happy.
“On the employment side, we’re doing just about everything we can to reach potential employees. And we know we’re not alone in that, as just about every industry is feeling the employment pinch right now,” Bamdas said. “It does help us that our industry is so seasonal, so when we’re up in the spring and summer we get a lot of seasonal help from returning college students in the area.”
Availability has also been less than perfect, with many of RIVA’s component suppliers still behind and playing catch up from pandemic shortages.
Bamdas recently took to RIVA’s social media channels with a special personal message to both current and potential customers, explaining in-depth why orders are taking longer than normal and asking customers to remain patient.
“In my eyes, it’s always good to be as upfront as possible and communicate no matter what’s going on,” Bamdas said. “So far the message has been well received by our audience and customers have been extremely supportive.”
RIVA currently has a second shift running to keep up with orders and communication with customers, and is also gearing up to break ground on a new 12,000-square-foot manufacturing facility.
“We were at a point where we just couldn’t get back to people in a timely fashion, but we’re over that hill now,” Bamdas said.
With continued investment in its digital efforts, the return of racing events and live events all together, Bamdas and the RIVA team are ready to roll well into the rest of 2021 and beyond.