Five years ago when we embarked on the Top 100 Dealers Program, times were much, much different. The industry was growing at rate of about 8 to 10 percent annually. New unit powerboat sales had surpassed the 300,000 mark. And there were about 13 million registered vessels.
As we put the finishing touches on this issue, celebrating the fifth-annual list of the Top 100 Dealers, new unit sales have been shrinking, conservatively speaking, at a 35 percent year-over-year clip. There are reports that as much as 40 to 50 percent of the marine workforce has been laid off, and the contraction we’ve seen in the dealer body has been so fast and furious that keeping track of it is nearly impossible.
You only need to look at a few of Boating Industry magazine’s recent cover stories to truly understand the sea change we are in the midst of: “Survival Guide,” “Lessons in Enduring,” “Bailout Blues,” “Competitive Advantage,” “The Dealership of Tomorrow” … collectively, these issues and their online counterparts contained countless real-world, immediately implementable best practices.
This is what we do — day in and day out. Uncover, collect and share the business brilliance that is found in this outstanding group of marine dealers. And in the face of such incredible economic turmoil, the terms “brilliance” and “outstanding” hardly do the Top 100 Dealers justice.
Consider these facts: First, while the marine industry at large is down more than 30 percent, the Top 100 Dealers are off, on average, just 11 percent. Second, these 100 dealers account for $1.4 billion of the business done in the marine industry. And finally, despite the difficult economic conditions that have caused them to trim employees (out of almost exactly the same number of locations), they actually increased their average CSI score for the fifth-consecutive year. In the face of adversity, they stepped up their game to make boating an even better choice for their customers.
The Top 100 Dealers are a remarkable group, and it has been our honor, for the past five years, to recognize and celebrate their accomplishments. It is through the vision and dedication of one very special group of companies that we are able to hold them up as examples to emulate, and that group is the Leadership Alliance, the sponsors of the Top 100 Dealers Program.
Without these leading companies — Bombardier Recreational Products, GE Capital Solutions, Boat Trader, Volvo Penta, ADP Lightspeed, Global Marine Insurance Agency, Manheim Specialty Auctions, and the Marine Retailers Association of America — there wouldn’t be a Top 100, there wouldn’t be a marine best practice portal on our Web site, and quite frankly we likely would not have been in a position to pull off the incredible educational line up of the recent Marine Dealer Conference & Expo. Like their steadfast commitment to you, the Leadership Alliance has made it possible for us to continue sharing these best practices with you at a time when, let’s face it, we all need them the most.
And so, here we are … the survivors … the leaders … the future of this industry. And through it all, the Leadership Alliance has stood by your side, supporting you and investing in your future. These companies see their investment in this program as an investment in you, the marine dealer body. They support it because they support you. They understand that you are on the frontlines serving the boating consumer and those 13 million registered boats that are still actively navigating our waterways.
And for our part, we are eternally grateful and personally humbled to serve as this conduit for excellence.