by Jacqui Oakes
When an Australian-based retail group sells in excess of $250 million worth of marine products annually, including $41 million worth of chandlery, it’s instantly apparent you’re dealing with a major player in the marine industry.
Bargain Boat Bits
National chandlery buying group Bargain Boat Bits (BBB) has been quietly staking its claim in a traditionally fragmented marine industry, and after nearly 17 years in operation, has emerged as Australia’s leading boating accessory group.
Initially starting life as a buying group producing a centralised catalogue, BBB today delivers its members some serious buying power, comprehensive marketing resources and support, and some genuine networking ability between members.
With 40 members nationally, including some of Australia’s most respected marine retailers, it’s no wonder that the group gets so many requests from prospective new members to join.
Spend an hour with any of the members and you quickly find out why.
'BBB started life as a buying group, and there’s no question that members enjoy some of the best buying power in the country through our network,' explains BBB General Manager Andrew Oakes.
'I work for the group, helping members enjoy year round access to special buys on a full range of chandlery, including sounders and electronics, safety gear, ski gear, and boat and trailer accessories, with the ability to access all the leading brands at the right price.
'We combine bulk ordering from some of Australia’s largest and most respected manufacturers and importers, with an indent program where we import full container-loads for the group, thus increasing their retail margin.'
Members are encouraged to deal through the group, which in turn gives Bargain Boat Bits greater buying power and strengthens our market position.'
In addition to highly competitive pricing, excellent profit margins and the BBB rewards program, one of the real advantages to members is the access to proven, best selling brands.
Popular national and international brands sold through the BBB network include Fusion, Piranha, ICOM, Humminbird, Garmin, GME Electrophone, Century Batteries, Minn Kota, Rule and Johnson pumps, Bermuda, Lalizas, Ultra, Pains Wessex, etc, etc, the list goes on!
Managing Director of Northside Marine in Brisbane, Mr. Greg Nickerson, applauds the BBB concept and massive buying power it brings, allowing him to maintain the chandlery area in his store as a consistent money earner.
Bargain Boat Bits
'For the first 20 years, the chandlery was always just part of the business, an area for salesman to pull accessories from whenever they sold a boat' he said. 'However, in the 17 years since I’ve been a member, we’ve been able to unlock a whole new profit centre within the store'.
'The result - a high level of stock turnover selling popular lines, extra cash in the bank every month, and I can still call the shots regarding our business moves in the future. It’s is an absolute essential business move.'
While it started as just a retail-buying group, there has been a strong shift in recent years as the industry increases its professionalism and the BBB group recognises the enormous value it is building as a brand.
Marketing is now a key focus, and members are all sharing in the benefits of collective marketing effort of an established, national brand that they can hang their hats on.
Actively promoting the BBB brand and ‘We buy more, you pay less’ positioning, more than 4 million catalogues annually are distributed to potential customers 4 times a year, driving serious volumes of floor traffic in-store.
Combined with members press, radio and TV advertising at a store level, the BBB brand delivers serious advertising power, and helps each dealer establish a higher profile in member’s territory.
High quality, full colour multi-page publications are produced for store distribution at varying times throughout the year. With design, printing and distribution organised through the group, members simply determine when they’re ready to hit the market.
In addition to catalogues, a full range of POS materials, posters, header cards, uniforms and merchandising materials are all available to members, turning the chandlery section of their business into a high impact sales area.
The BBB website (update due October 2008) http://www.bargainboatbits.com.au delivers an ever expanding comprehensive online catalogue, with photographs and retail pricing for many of the products sold through the group. The web presence is growing steadily, both in size and in popularity, with thousands of visitors to the site monthly as new users realise the 24/7 convenience of online shopping.
A sales powerhouse for progressive wholesalers and manufacturers, group research proves the retailing might of the BBB network, controlling some $250 million worth of the marine retailing market.
With chandlery comprising some 25% of member’s annual turnover, the group continues to be a fast way for wholesalers and manufacturers to instantly access a significant slice of a lucrative industry.
'Wholesalers are able to make contact with 38 of the country’s best marine retailers, offering them a possible path to dramatically increase their annual sales,' Mr. Oakes said.
Bargain Boat Bits Operation Manager Jacqui Oakes said Bargain Boat Bits members were able to enjoy lower purchase prices on products due to their volume buying power.
'Bargain Boat Bits members enjoy many add-on opportunities from being part of the Bargain Boat Bits group,' she said.
'In addition to the lower prices, we also help to get the stores names, out to the customers by providing promotional assistance. BBB members also have the luxury of being one of the first people to be advised of the latest industry developments and new products.'
Franchises and buying groups have grown enormously in popularity over the past 20 years as operators realise the power and value of collective dealings.
Options that are beyond the reach of single operators can easily be accessed with a group approach.
Professional web designers, specialist retail marketers and a team of individual specialists are all on call for BBB members.
Sessions with corporate psychologists, marketing strategists, accountants, key suppliers and successful retailers help ensure the skills of every BBB owner / operator are kept at peak level, and active networking is encouraged between members.
An industry first, is the access members have to accurate benchmarks to measure against, developed through group research and performance data.
Managing Director of Northside Marine in Queensland, Mr. Greg Nickerson explained that regardless of how big or small you are, everyone had something to learn from other operators within the group – whether they be from a country area or in the cities.
'It was always an intangible part of the BBB concept, but as one of the founding members, I have to say it’s without question one of the biggest advantages,' he said.
'When you’re wrapped up day to day serving customers, it’s the time we take to step outside of our businesses and share strategies that really pays the dividends.
'As someone who has gone through the pain of constructing a purpose built marine centre I am proud to show other BBB members through our new premises, pointing out the pitfalls and suggesting practical ways to increase efficiency and profitability.'
'I can play as an independent, while still being backed by the biggest team in the country'
While part of the strongest buying group in the country, each BBB member still operates independently, and has the ability to determine their own destiny.
Without the restrictions of a franchise, the group’s structure and focus allows individual operators to compete equally against bigger retailers and mail order houses.