Unified Marine becoming a distributor

Unified Marine wants to sell its marine and trailer accessories through boat dealers, but that’s not as easy as it used to be, according to David Nirenberg, the company’s CEO.

Many of the industry’s large marine distributors have been bought up by big corporations like Brunswick, he says, and getting your foot in the door of the big players isn’t easy, especially when you compete with Attwood, which Brunswick owns.

“We have Lorenz & Jones in the middle of the country along with some smaller distributors throughout the U.S., but they don’t cover some of the territories where we need distribution of our product line,” he explains. “We need dealer support, and dealers want our products.”

A new sales strategy

Now, the Newport, Tenn.-based manufacturer of SeaSense accessories is becoming a distributor as well. It’s expanding its customer service department and adapting its operation to be able to fulfill smaller orders. In addition, it’s aggressively marketing its 1,300 products to consumers through advertising, boat shows and mailing lists in the Southeast, mid-Atlantic, Northeast, West Coast and Southern Gulf states, where it lacks distribution.

“When we get leads from our advertising, we’re going to be feeding them to the dealers in those areas,” Nirenberg explains. “We’ve got to pull the sales and push them to the dealers.”

Unified Marine’s sales strategy will consist mostly of telemarketing – calling dealers on a weekly or bi-weekly basis – rather than putting its sales force on the road. With that said, the company will be sending its customer service team into the field to train dealers on its products. It has a trailer with working displays that will be traveling the country as a training tool for dealers’ sales staff. The trailer will feature many accessories, including a trailer jack with a scale that measures tongue weight, the LoadMate, which allows a boater to easily launch their vessel by themselves, and its line of LED lights.

A missed opportunity

Parts and accessories is a missed opportunity for many dealers. With Boater’s World out of business and West Marine’s store count down substantially from just a few years ago, the potential for dealers is significant.

“Dealers don’t seem to want to pay attention to probably their highest profit area,” says Nirenberg. “Let’s face it, there is not a lot of profit on a boat sale.”

Success in the realm of parts and accessories often comes back to packaging and merchandising, which are among Unified Marine’s strengths, according to Nirenberg. The company produces in-store advertising materials for dealers, as well as plan-o-grams to help get dealers off on the right foot in planning out their displays.

“My suggestion is to take a walk into a large retail store or chain store,” he comments. “Look at how they’re setting their displays, their end caps, their specials.”

These are the kinds of steps dealers are going to need to take to be successful in today’s economy, he suggests.

“I think we’re in for some more rough times,” says Nirenberg. “To exist, everyone is going to have to get more aggressive and utilize all the tools available to help build profits and ride out this historical economic disaster.”

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