Everyone knows the markets and economy are down big time. Dive shops all over the world are feeling the pinch. I’m worried that next year there may be a mass exodus in the dive shop industry. Most mom and pop businesses keep a few months worth of expenses on hand to survive a slump...but I imagine that money is either gone or nearly gone by now. Business owners are probably trying to sell what they can OR get loans from family and friends OR take equity out of their house.
I wanted to write this blog in an effort to solicit ideas from DiveBuddy members about what small mom and pop shops can do to stay alive during this prolonged down time. I have a few suggestions myself:
1. Renegotiate everything! Your rent, insurance, gear cost, training materials, etc. The people you’re paying money to can either accept a lower fee for the time being or no fee if you go out of business.
2. Do more of the work yourself. Temporarily lay off an employee or two and do the work yourself (unless you have a different day job of course). I’m sure the employee will understand that you’ve decided to run lean and mean for a while vs. closing the doors for good. Don’t let personal ties get in the way...it’s all business and for the mom and pop that own the dive shop, it’s your life we’re talking about!
3. Offer an annual or monthly membership fee to your dedicated customers. For the fee, give them free air fills, free rental, one free gear repair per year, 20% off gear purchases and coffee when they visit your shop :). This will allow you to bring in consistent revenue to help keep the lights on and may encourage your dedicated customers to buy more from you at a reduced rate. They know your struggling, but most likely they aren’t going to help you unless you give them something small in return. Remember, even your dedicated customers may be feeling the pinch from this bad economy. You need to give them a good reason to part with their cash.
4. Give back. The next several months, maybe years, are going to be tough. If you can survive on the revenue coming in...consider more volunteer programs in your community to help with marketing and to secure your place in the area when things turn around. Offer free swim lessons to kids, free scuba training (without requiring gear purchases) to veterans, disabled...or even firefighters, teachers and police officers. If you give something back during hard times...the effect will be multiplied versus if you had done the same thing during times of plenty. Get the press involved so they can help spread the word about your generosity. We can still scuba dive and appreciate our underwater world even when we have zero cash.
5. Find good advertising deals. Just about everyone is willing to accept lower fees for products/services. Even the large scuba magazines or scuba websites are willing to accept lower fees for advertising. I bet you can advertise for half the price that it cost last year at this time. Shop around and find the best deals that will help you advertise your shop locally. If a dive shop is going to advertise online, make sure your ads are targeted to your service area. You don’t want ads showing up to divers in Canada if you cater to Southern Florida. If you have an online store, I would not recommend advertising it throughout the world...it may be a waste of money since divers that buy online have so many other options that may be cheaper than your store. Stick with advertising locally for now.
Those are a few of my ideas. Remember, I’m not an expert...just an ordinary guy who runs a couple businesses and really like scuba diving. If you have an opinion or suggestions on this subject, please add a comment.
I truly hope all mom and pop dive shops find a way to survive and even thrive over the next year. Good luck and I’ll see you underwater.
Owner and Member #1