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Dive shop suggestions for staying alive.
Greg - 12/12/2008 10:17 AM
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Category: Other
Comments: 25
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’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 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.


Greg Davis
Owner and Member #1


bsf - 1/21/2009 8:52 PM
Lots of good advice, one other thing if your margins are too small selling new equipment why not sell reconditioned used equipment. You can keep all your employees and give your customers a good deal at the same time.
MatavaFiji - 1/11/2009 6:49 PM
Great advice Greg. Good for ANY business in these trying times, but double good for dive businesses who tend to be less ’business’ oriented than others!

Keep it up!

pucksucker - 12/28/2008 3:25 PM
I think you should add a section to the forum to promote local dive shops’ with great service...
Pixel - 12/26/2008 1:15 AM

Even the Dive Shops in South Africa are feeling the financial pinch at the moment. Equipment prices have gone through the roof.

My local dive shop has tried to help out the local divers by lowering their equipment rental prices by a few rands. So now instead of paying R70 for cylinder rental each time, we only pay R50. Same with air fills and other equipment. This has helped us and them alot. For us it helps because now we can get 3 cylinders for the price of two and for them the word is spreading about the great deals they offer. Their point with cheaper equipment rental is that all the equipment is already paid for, so by renting it cheaper the only thing they are losing is a bit of clean profit. This they make up for because there are more people coming into the shop now for rentals.

Also because we all love this dive shop, we’re helping by spreading the word about them in the various industries we work in. eg I’m in the hospitality industry so I deal wit
SafetySteve - 12/23/2008 4:22 PM

I agree, in these tough times shop owners are going to have to work with customers new and old to find ways to continue doing business. 

I think that setting up group events to bring divers together and build relationships is a good idea. Community sevrice that supports both the shop and people in need is a great start. This way the divers can work together and make good friends, while assisting others. 
Marti - 12/20/2008 3:23 PM

I have to agree with BugBagger and others who stress the need for customer service. I have heard all the arguments against online stores in favor of local dive shops, but have to say that I tried many many times to shop at my local dive shop only to find that they were not open. After two or three attempts, I gave up and went back to LeisurePro. Their prices are significantly lower, I am always treated like royalty, Divemaster Benjamin always takes the time to help me personally, even when the shop is busy, and they always have an abundance of choices of equipment for me to try. I have also gotten substantial discounts when I shop at the Manhattan store because they know me and know that I am a very good repeat customer. They are masters of customer service, both live and online, and as a result, I think they will be around for a very long time. The president of the company even reached out to online customers for feedback on their LeisurePro shopping experiences. 
caddydiver - 12/17/2008 7:35 PM
I love this topic. So many different perpectives. Ultimately though, a local dive shop, has overhead, and is going to meet it through the different profit centers within it. I own a shop in Northern Michigan. We started an air account, whereby purchases earn credit towards air 100.00 sale = 10.00 of air. (10%). Then we raised the price of air. It won’t effect the person shopping the store, just the ones that don’t, who look to us just to fill tanks. Win/win. However, I will be the first to defend any shop owner who closes because the town he’s in dried up. I’ve seen too many shops close because diving is a recreation depending on disposable income. If you don’t support your local store, and it closes, hope your drive for air isn’t too far! The closest shop to mine is 60 miles. Figure your air now into the price of gas. "My perspective"
Diver123 - 12/15/2008 6:05 AM
If someone really wants to dive they won’t mind the cost if the instruction is the best they can get. Example: I just paid 2500.00 for my rebreather training, I went to the guy that teaches the instructors, I didn’t mind the cost because it was the best training I could get. Tank fills, whatever your charging raise it by five bucks. Same for service.

 Another thing shop can do is add an online store. Everything is going online, several majior department stores are closing, but keeping there online stores.

send out e-mails and let your customers know about specials, let them know you’ll try to match any online price they have.
Diver123 - 12/15/2008 6:04 AM

It’s very hard for most shops to compete with the internet, they can’t carry as large of an inventory, most don’t carry tec gear, and no one in my area carries rebreather gear. So what I do with the shops I deal with is, offer the sale to them first. When I need something that I found online I show the shop what I need and the price I found it for. I explain that all I want them to do is come close if they mark it up 20-30% that’s fine. In most cases I would pay for shipping anyways. The shops I deal with will either, match the price, just by it from the source that I showed them, call that source to try to get a better price or just tell me they can’t. 

 What everyone has to remember, if the shops go out of business it will pose a few problems. Number one problem, where to get your tanks filled and most of your gear serviced. So maybe reduce your mark up on the gear and increase your prices on classes, current 200, make it 250, tank fills or service prices. [/
DiveBuddyChgo - 12/14/2008 7:08 PM
The dive shops that know how to market and service the customer will survive off of customer base of the inferior shops that will close...
BugBagger - 12/14/2008 5:31 PM

I have to disagree with some of you about supporting Mom & Pop shops. Particularily, you have to wonder about the topic thread be posted on a website with website retailers (which help pay for hosting time).

It comes down to customer service and having a supply on hand. I went to the local place on several occasions to purchase equipment needed for an upcoming dive. Not only did they not have the gear, their prices were far above competitor website prices. It may be an isolated incident, but for certain items of equipment, it doesn’t matter where you purchase it from.

For those that think and believe the local dive shop myths about buying gear from a "local" dive shop, you really need to see if they will price match like the popular marine hardware store, West Marine. Someone said it’s a big world getting smaller... that’s true but based on good advertising and competitive prices. About the only thing these days I would care to buy at a dive store is ai
dwightfrie - 12/13/2008 3:53 PM

Getting to know your clients and treating them with the utmost respect goes a long way. Also most of your new realationships with customers can be solidified through classroom and pool. Make sure if your instructors and divemasters don’t spend time in the shop, that they understand, that future buisness can start or end there.

If your new customers reach out to shake your hand before you can reach out for theirs then you’ve done your job!
eios - 12/13/2008 3:47 AM

There will be some who dont make it, maybe they not supose to. Maybe the 10`000 small shops are the problem, less wery small shops makes the bigger small shops survive, i personally like shops that opens in the morning and have open alle day every day and not only if the owner is home. I have visited many shops that says closed for the owner is out having courses or on diving holliday. And that realy s... well maybe i am wrong. A good thing is that if you want to have a customers and loyal buddys, make a diveclub with a lot of acitvities. Let the club memebers get discount and so one, have courses and push the best and most expencive equipment on your students, snd free membership in your club for 2 months etc. 

Eirik :-) 
Indiana - 12/12/2008 7:25 PM
Everybody is effected by the economy.Dive shops who are good to their customers will properly make it.The ones that charge 2 and 3 times the price for products then others will not make it.Cut back and hold on because it will be rough and if you think it is rough now let one of the big three automakers go out and we will know what a great depression is
AdventureSports - 12/12/2008 7:22 PM



LarryT - 12/12/2008 7:13 PM
I’m feeling the pinch. My local dive shop has gone out of business. They tried several things but it wasn’t enough. I now have to find another. I hate to have to start with another one of the larger dive shops here, they just don’t have that personal touch that the smaller shops have. I bought 99% of my equipment from my local shop. I got my Open, Advanced and some specialties there as well. It is going to be hard to find the trust I had in these people and this shop.
Flipper78754 - 12/12/2008 6:46 PM

I agree.

I would add to all of us divers and non-divers who know divers, "Be Loyal" to mom and pop shops if they give good customer service. Nothing beats the special personal customer service a mom and pop shop can give.
Nitediver - 12/12/2008 3:23 PM
Just a thought but maybe it’s time for the divers to return to their roots and stop buying online. Go back to your dive shop and support them they way they support you, fee info, fee dive planning, free hookups with others that are diving, cut rates on dive trips. The list is long. I always buy from my shop. Keep your bucks local where they will do the most good! Customer loyalty. I means a lot in these times
divestop - 12/12/2008 3:18 PM
As a Dive Shop owner, we look for the Deals, and work with our members to get them the best price. I saw one responce that "air fills are free" that’s a good ideal and we will look into that. One thing that we have tried in the past months is "Co-Op" on our shipping. We call the other local shops and we all make a "Big" purchase. This helps move us in the tier pricing and we all split the shipping. It works... We are trying as well, to work with all the local shops and try to spread our student load around. If the shops can work more together, we all can survive this. We are looking at any ideals that will help us.
diverjed - 12/12/2008 1:46 PM
I think this has been mentioned before, but government bailout is the answer. Everyone is going for them, including some states (so I’ve heard). All divers march to Capital Hill for a marching rally.