Dealer Outlook

Trade Only Dealer Outlook Blog

Looking back: The best posts of 2008

Usually, I don’t look back. To me, life is more exciting looking forward. Still, 2008 will end tomorrow night and I’ll be glad to see it go. It sure hasn’t been much fun for boating. Actually, it sucked!

I went to see Santa!

It was a typically negative day. The news was filled with words like “tanking,” “meltdown,” and “recession.” I needed a lift. So I went to see Santa.

Luxury tax proposal in New York State

Is he freaking serious? TradeOnlyToday reported earlier this week that New York Governor Paterson might propose a luxury tax on boats when he unveiled his 2009-10 budget plan. He did exactly that on Tuesday in Albany.

Used Boats To Appear In Winter Shows?

For more than 50 years now, major market winter boat shows have featured strictly new boats. In fact, until the early 1990’s, the rules at most big shows barred even new non-current models from the floor. To talk about displaying some used boats would have been called sacrilege! Apparently, no longer.

St. Pete Boat Show upbeat and positive!

I wish I could report sales were booming at the St. Petersburg Boat Show & Strictly Sail that closed on Sunday. Unfortunately, “booming” didn’t apply. But, while sales appeared to remain hard to close, interest evidenced by good attendance and serious discussions were welcomed signals.

Boat shows are more important than ever

It’s virtually here – the winter boat show season. It opens even earlier than usual as the New York National Boat show kicks things off with new dates, Dec. 13-21. To my knowledge, this is the first time a major market winter boat show has ever run before Christmas and it could give us an […]

Boating looks pretty good in NTSB Report

Earlier this month, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released its Most Wanted Transportation Safety Improvements and I gotta say that recreational boating is looking pretty good! In fact, boating safety has “come a long way baby” (to steal a phrase) in the past decade and, today, dealers can confidently tell prospects that boating is […]

‘Buyology’ looks inside buyers’ heads

Seems we can look into about every other part of a human, so why not into a buyers’ head? Apparently we can, reported Seth Brown in a special to USA Today recently. Brown (www.Rising was talking about marketing expert Martin Lindstrom’s new book, “Buyology.”

Did we miss the boat, too?

Just about every newspaper and newscast these days has a story about the potentially disastrous situation facing GM, Ford and Chrysler. And, certainly the possible demise of any of these giants would have terrible repercussions for an estimated 100,000 or more jobs for openers.

Why boat registrations decline

We may be finding out the claims that lots of boaters are quitting the sport may be overstated. Once again, valuable new data for the industry is available from research done by the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation (RBFF).

Where’s Boating’s Bailout?

Kudos to the Marine Retailers Association of America (MRAA). Robert Soucy, MRAA’s Chairman, and Phil Keeter, President, have sent a letter to Henry Paulson, Treasury Secretary, and Ben Bernanke, Fed Reserve Chairman, on behalf of the 3,500 MRAA member dealers.

We need more positive PR

There’s little doubt the media has played an unprecedented role in fanning the flames of the burning economy. So speculated Ben Steverman of Business Week. He aptly pointed out that “Wall Street has faced crises before, but not during a 24/7 news cycle.”

Where will all the money go?

If you don’t know that the NMMA Board has voted to temporarily dock the industry’s “Discover Boating” national media campaign, you haven’t been reading the news.

Are ad ideas becoming a commodity?

Want your dealership to have a new advertising approach? How about tapping the creative talent of ad men around the globe? It could happen, because the Internet is enabling businesses looking for creative ad ideas and creatives from virtually anywhere in the world to meet on the open market.

You can ask the ‘Industry Giants Panel’

Last year, it was my privilege to moderate the “Industry Giants Panel,” one of the top sessions held during MRAA’s annual conference in Las Vegas. If you recall, many of you submitted the primary questions that were asked during that session.

Boat Show Fall Out?

Tough economic times aren’t all bad. We all know there is frequently a “thinning of the herd” as weaker businesses fail to survive a downturn and those that do emerge stronger and more successful because of it.

MRAA conference is a ‘must’ attend

It’s got a new name — the Marine Dealer Conference & Expo (MDCE). It’s got a new momentum — the most comprehensive educational sessions ever put together by MRAA. It’s a “must” for dealers this year.

The Economic Impact of Grow Boating

Market research is playing an ever increasing role in the future direction of industry promotional expenditures. NMMA has been leading the way with research from sources such as Webtrends, Info-Link, Russell Research and Left Brain Marketing.

Don’t be Better, Be Different

“We’re different (and better) than the guy down the street — that’s why you should do business with us!” It’s the message we all want to send out to the market. But, if it’s the same message the guy down the street is shouting (and it is) the only way to make any impact with […]

American business is being fractured

There’s been an interesting fundamental restructuring in American business. It’s called “fracturing,” according to Herbert Meyer, author and a former associate editor of Fortune magazine, and it appears to have some potential future applications for small businesses, including dealerships.

Discover Boating Continues to Hit Important Goals

The industry’s Discover Boating national campaign has been operating with some reduced spending this year. Since the lion’s share of campaign funds are derived from a pass-thru on marine engines, the current industry downturn in boat sales is reflected in the amount of funds passed on to Discover Boating.

‘PFDs’ are out ? ‘life jackets’ are in

The National Association of Boating Law Administrators is meeting this week. Among the actions planned, delegates are being asked to vote on a proposal to drop “PFD” and return to the use of “life jacket” as the designation for … well, PFDs! Overwhelming approval is anticipated.

An Amazing Industry Achievement

I know I’ve previously talked about the success we had as an industry in getting Congress to pass the “Clean Boating Act of 2008.” I called it a great achievement, and it was surely that!

Where Have All the Checkbooks Gone?

Banks and other lenders have become overly tightfisted. They point to the state of the economy and fallout from the housing bust as justification for their current actions. They also note an increase in non-performing boat loans and repos. With all that, one might think the banks are victims. Truth is, they are . . […]

Keep Them In The Sport!

“We’ll never see boating grow if all we do is lose as many boaters as we gain each year.” So says NMMA President Thom Dammrich, and he’s right! Keeping existing customers in the sport should be job #1 at our dealerships.

Political Campaigns Can Drive Us Nuts!

Can it be that I’m just getting tired of the same old stuff? Or is it that my growing dislike for political campaigns reflects what others are thinking and I just happen to have a blog in which to air it out?

Selling “Renewal”

I remember the time when we excitedly headed out for our traditional 2-week summer family vacation? It was an important time of rest and renewal. They were much-anticipated days. How sad that they’re disappearing!

Fall Show Season Begins this Week

The 2008 round of major fall in-water boat shows gets underway at the Michigan City (IN) In-Water Boat Show this Thursday and winds up in early December at the new St. Petersburg (FL) Boat Show and Strictly Sail. In between, the industry will be watching for any results that indicate our sales decline has bottomed […]

Let’s Hand Out Some Recognition

Here’s an interesting question: Do state regulatory agencies do a good job of promoting boating? Truth is, I don’t know but I suspect some do and many don’t. One example of a state agency that clearly sees the importance of increasing interest in the sport is in the “Buckeye State.”

It’s About Racial Diversity

There’s no doubt the rise to political prominence of Barack Obama in this year’s Presidential sweepstakes has brought the subject of racial diversity to the forefront in America. In particular, it recently got me thinking about the subject as it relates to our boating industry.

NASBLA to propose improved reciprocity

The National Association of Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) is an organization that, among other things, was formed to foster cooperation and reciprocity between the states. To that end, more than 10 years ago, NASBLA developed its minimum content for safe boating education courses. That was good. It resulted in states and private boating safety educational […]

Give Yourself an Atta-Boy

If you are among those who acted on requests to write Congress about the “Clean Boating Act of 2008,” give yourself a well-deserved “atta-boy!” You and more than 150,000 others sent email messages to members of Congress, 120,000 emails alone via the website That’s an amazing number!

Call Your Congressman to Raise Gas Tax!

I’d like to think I’m patient and open-minded, slow to anger and judge, at least until I get all the facts. I’d like to think I’m like that, but apparently I’m not . . . at least not when it comes to actions or potential actions of Congress. Boy, how easy is it to react […]

Wise use of e-mail needed today

Today, let’s forget about political sound bites and address an enemy more calculating than Al Qaeda and more sinister than Iran. I mean spam and e-mail. I mean I can’t wait to receive my daily offers to get my free credit report, start eating healthier, help a scam in Nigeria or enlarge a certain part […]

Boating scores a victory on the Great Lakes

It’s been 7½ years in the making, but last week the 8 Great Lakes states ratified an interstate Compact that will create unprecedented protections for the Great Lakes–St. Lawrence River Basin. The eight States of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin will now send their Compact to Congress.

A break on the health insurance front?

No small businessman knows better than a boat dealer how difficult it has been to provide health insurance for employees. The costs have been nearly unmanageable. But after living through many brutal premium increases in recent years, the tables appear to be turning and there may even be a price war at hand in the […]

“Clean Boating Act:” down but not out!

We’ve known for some time that failure to get Congress to pass the “Clean Boating Act of 2008” (S. 2766/H.R. 5949) by September 30 would result in a nightmare for boating. But, until now, we didn’t really know how disagreeable the prospect would be if all boaters faced unprecedented EPA and, probably, state permitting requirements […]

We’re still selling “A Simpler Time!”

Last July, my good friend Bing O’Meara (publisher of Lakeland Boating magazine) penned an editorial he called “A Simpler Time.” It’s a piece I just can’t forget, perhaps, because it contained some genuine truth about what we are still offering our boating customers every day we go to the dealership.