With SIBS nearly upon us and conflicting news of a high-end sales boom and a trailerable sales dearth, it’s an opportune time to speak with a dealer at the coal face on the market, customer behaviour and how one of the most successful NSW dealerships is weathering the current climate.
Ian Tricker, owner of TR Marine World at McGraths Hill, is candid and curt when it comes to the state of play at the moment and his advice to BIAs nationally.
'The focus needs to start at the pointy end, the dealers,' he says passionately, adding that at least five major dealerships have gone out of business in the past year due to slow sales, too much competition and in some cases, poor planning.
'If the retailers aren’t supported by industry organizations and governments, we won’t need manufacturers.'
Tricker is quick to praise the BIA of NSW, saying 'We are lucky to have one of the best BIAs of the lot, but we really need some rules on importing, as well as investment in infrastructure to reduce ‘boat ramp rage’ among the public.'
His main grievance with imports is that they’re not controlled. 'There are frequently quality issues, and US manufacturers are relentless – they just allow anybody to set up shop and distribute their product and offer little or no support for customers.'
Tricker, who boasts his own impeccable set up in the heart of water ski country, has invested heavily in what he describes as, and has the accolades to prove is, 'the best retail facility in NSW'.
In 2006-2007, TR Marine Worlds was Quintrex Australian Dealer of the Year, recognised for highest achievement in sales activity, marketing activity, website, innovative marketing activity, dealership presentation, stock presentation and workshop facilities.
Sales Manager, Troy Durham was also awarded Quintrex Salesperson of the Year.
'We say that 365 days a year we’re in boat show mode – meaning all our boats are clean, the showroom is pristine, we’re entirely customer focused and switched on. When it rains, we’re glad because people can come and look at our 40-odd boats undercover.'
With over 1500m² of retail space and a team of 14, Tricker is working with skeleton staff and has divested himself of the lease on an 800 m² workshop at the back of the property in an effort to cut overheads.
The dealership, which once earned up to $15m turnover, is now reaping around $10m, meaning severe cost-cutting is a survival strategy.
'The workshop became a luxury we couldn’t justify,' explains Tricker. 'We also made some staff adjustments, from 20 to 14, and really pulled the reins in over summer, trimming everywhere.
'We can honestly say we are 30-50% down on last year. We used to sell four or five boats per weekend, now we are lucky to sell any and we are working on leads alone.'
Tricker is upfront with the manufacturers of the brands he stocks – these days Quintrex/Telwater, Skicraft, CrownLine and most recently, Haines Signature – and lets them know that their active support and competitive pricing are required to keep dealerships like his operating under the present circumstances.
'Manufacturers, who profited during the boom time, need to be careful or they’ll have no retailers. That means being proactive, supporting us at boat shows and not hiking prices to unreasonable levels.'
Manufacturers – local and overseas – should take more consideration of dealer location too, says Tricker.
'There needs to be more strategic placement of dealerships to allow us to make some money. Australia just doesn’t have the population or volume to support dealerships too close in the same neck of the woods.'
Boat shows are crucial to sales and branding, in TR Marine World’s case, contributing to around 15% of the company’s annual income.
TR Marine World will invest around $100,000 for the six days at SIBS, all with his suppliers on side to amortize the costs.
As the trailerable market sits in the doldrums, Tricker is keen to maximize his investment in SIBS and get some movement for the coming season.
'We have a prime position with the maximum space possible – 700m². We don’t go overboard with ceilings and decoration, but lighting is important and we have to make the space work, when you think that every single tile of carpet costs us $110!
'We make sure we have excellent product, fully-trained and fired up staff and, off the back of a pretty good Melbourne Show – considering they’re suffering too with fuel prices, mortgage pain and the drought – we’re confident we can generate enough sales and leads for Sydney to kick start some activity for summer.
'The mediocre exhibitors will suffer. Boat shows are not just about turning up. You have to plan and put a lot of effort in to it.'
More at www.trmarine.com.au