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Will High Gas Prices Impact Accessory Sales?

The Seattle Boat Show announced it will shorten its weekday hours of operation by a total of eight when the show, the largest on the West Coast, runs Feb. 3-11. Meanwhile, boaters don't appear to be letting high gas prices ruin their weekends on the water, but could it negatively impact in-store sales?

At the Northwest Marine Trade Association, the boat show committee and board of trustees annually review the results of the Seattle show’s dates and operating hours. Following this year’s review, which included extensive exhibitor feedback and survey data, the board unanimously voted to revise the show hours at its indoor location.

“Our Seattle Boat Show has impressive lines every morning the show opens on weekends and weekdays,” says NMTA president George Harris. “That said, we have noticed a decrease in attendees entering the show late in the day Monday to Thursday in recent years, and the NMTA board unanimously decided to reduce the weekday hours in an effort to make exhibitors time at the show as productive as possible.”

Monday through Thursday, hours at the Lumen Field Events Center portion of the show will be 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., a reduction of two hours daily. Friday hours remain unchanged at 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday hour are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The in-water portion of the show is at Bell Harbor Marina, a short ride from the Lumen Center. Hours for this part of the show are unchanged: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

For more information about the 2023 show, email Katie McPhail, NMTA vice president and boat show director, at katiemc@nmta.net.

Will High Gas Prices Impact Accessory Sales?

From Wisconsin to Florida, boaters have been spending more to fuel up and get on the water, particularly during the recent Fourth of July weekend. But if anyone was looking for evidence of a decline in boat usage because of fuel prices, they might come up empty.

In the Badger State, for example, WXOW-TV interviewed a number of boaters at Clinton Street Boat Landing in La Crosse. Many said they won't let gas prices ruin their time on the water. The same was true at Loggerhead Marina in St. Petersburg, Fla., where we keep our boat. Gas was $6.75 a gallon, traffic at the gas dock was constant, and the waters were packed with boaters.

But the price of gas could lead to speculation that boaters may cut spending in other areas to compensate, such as accessory and equipment purchases at marine stores. While there has been no formal marine study, a parallel in convenience store operations may serve as a word of caution.

In a recent survey, 59 percent of convenience store operators reported that their customer traffic has decreased during the past three months. Convenience stores sell about 80 percent of the fuel purchased in the United States, but the bottom line relies on in-store sales to drive profits. More than half are now predicting sales will be lower this summer.

Given the trend, convenience retailers indicate they see a need to reduce expenses. Chief among them are credit card fees, which average more than 10 cents per gallon, and pass the savings to price-conscious customers. More than one in four retailers surveyed by NACS said they are offering cash discounts at the pump, and 31 percent are offering discounts for those who pay by app.

Here are some examples of what convenience store retailers are doing to provide more value to customers:

• Mickey Mart, based in Milan, Ohio, is offering more promotions and deals on in-store items.

• High’s, of Baltimore, is offering fuel discounts tied to in-store purchases and points earned.

• Pennsylvania-based Landhope Farms is offering discounts for app-purchased fuel and in-store items.

• Armbruster Energy Stores in Grafton, Ohio, is expanding its electronic coupon offerings.

“Loyal customers want to be rewarded, and that’s our aim during this time of immense inflation,” said Dennis McCartney of Landhope Farms.

While gas prices have come down slightly, it’s a no-brainer they will remain higher than usual for the balance of this year’s primary boating season. Although boaters will likely spend the extra dollars to fuel up rather than give up their boat time, retailers should be alert and thinking of marketing ideas to head off what could be a reduction in other spending by customers.

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