The month of September almost slid by unnoticed. During most normal annual cycles of the marine industry, it would remain that way. But not this year.
This year, the month of September likely spells the beginning of the end for hundreds of marine dealers, if not more. It’s the first of several consecutive months where dealers historically — even in good years — lose money keeping their businesses operating. It’s the start of the off-season, Old Man Winter, to cap off a year that has progressed like winter from beginning to end.
The net losses this coming off-season, stacked on top of the miniscule profits left over from what was, by all indications, a dismal summer selling season, suggest that many dealers won’t be able to survive the winter. That is, if you believe the experts.
The dealers who make it, however, will be stronger and better positioned to reap the rewards of the turnaround than any group of dealers before them. They will be armed with the tools, the knowledge and the strategies to capitalize on opportunities as they arise. And as it turns out, many of those same dealers are expected to attend this year’s Marine Dealer Conference & Expo (www.boatingindustry.com/mdce).
Slated for Nov. 16-18 at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort in Orlando, the MDCE is in its first full year under the production of Boating Industry magazine, which signed a five-year deal with the Marine Retailers Association of America to organize and produce the dealer educational and expo event. Last year’s initial partnership led to an event that saw twice as many dealerships, twice as many dealership personnel and twice as many Top 100 Dealers in attendance. And this year, attendance is expected to grow once again … despite all the doom and gloom.
“Never before have marine dealers needed answers and solutions to their challenges as much as they do today,” says Matt Gruhn, associate publisher and editor-in-chief of Boating Industry. “And we expect to deliver exactly what they are looking for and exactly what they need to help them endure this difficult time.”
The event will kick off with a keynote presentation from the Disney Institute, defining how today’s dealers can lead their companies through turbulent times. From there, more than 15 additional sessions will provide attendees with proven strategies from leading experts and top dealers throughout the industry.
The event will be highlighted by such timely topics as The Dealership of Tomorrow, Dealership Recovery & Growth, The Future of Selling, Making More Money in Service and The Art & Science of Inventory Management. It will also feature such attendee takeaways as a customized report of each dealer’s lead management needs, a best ideas booklet filled with best practices, a list of active lenders and a host of best practices not found anywhere else.
“There’s not a dealer around who hasn’t been affected in some way by the economic downturn,” says John Vallely, Jr., general manager/vice president of Vallely Sport & Marine, Bismarck, N.D., and chairman of the MDCE conference committee. “But with the right tools and the right information for the circumstances, things don’t have to be as difficult as they may seem. I expect the content of this conference to provide me insight into how my business can achieve greater profitability and move forward in this economy with confidence.”
To complement the educational component, industry suppliers are lining up to support the program. Seven companies — Bennington Marine Group, Brunswick, Channel Blade, Manheim Specialty Auctions, Regal Marine, Smokercraft/Starcraft and Volvo Penta — have signed on as title sponsors of the event. And a growing list of exhibitors will fill the Coronado’s exhibit hall — from boat builders and engine manufacturers to aftermarket manufacturers and service providers.
“While our theme for this event is GPS: Growth, Profitability and Solutions for Navigating Today’s Market, the takeaway messages will really be founded in how to prepare your dealership for the future of marine retailing,” explains Tammy Galvin, vice president of Affinity Media, Boating Industry’s parent company. “From the incredible sponsors and exhibitors who have made this event possible to the dealers who are joining together to create a better future both for their businesses and their customers, every link along the supply chain will benefit from this event.
“This off-season may be tougher than those of yesteryear, but with the actionable content that this event will provide, attending dealers can position themselves for success.”