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Boat shows are a very good time to share inventory

It seems to me that sharing inventory is something we have needed to do more consistently as retailers for a long time. Moreover, current market conditions lead me to believe it could be even more important and beneficial now.

For instance, with our major winter boat shows slated to run during the next three months around the country, and with the expectation that there will be buyers and that boats and motors will be sold in those halls, it is a very opportune time to be sharing inventory.

It’s reported that some manufacturers have programs in place to help dealers share inventory. However, it’s most often limited to a particular model or two that have proven especially hard to move. But in times like these, it could be even more advantageous for both dealers and builders to get deeper into a systematic inventory-sharing program. For one thing, it could help clear out products languishing in factory fields or dealer yards.

For another, it could help dealers meet some customer demands, given that many of the industry’s production lines are currently idle or producing very limited models. Dealers will have limited products on display at the boat shows. Invariably, a customer will want a color or engine or model that isn’t on display or in stock. If the dealer had a shared inventory list with fellow regional dealers of the same boat line, it’s probable a boat could be moved out of one dealer’s inventory while the customer of a fellow dealer is immediately well served.

In addition, with many manufacturers now announcing that they’re using the 85 percent of their Grow Boating assessments to help their dealers through rebate offers, discounts, incentives or other promotional considerations, doesn’t a shared inventory list with the clear purpose of moving products make even more sense?

If your manufacturer isn’t in the game, take the initiative yourself and contact all your dealer colleagues carrying your brands within a reasonable radius of you. For example, Ed Lofgren, 3A Marine Service in Hingham, Mass., is currently working with his colleagues in New England to create a shared inventory arrangement. Ed is chairman of the MRAA for 2009 as well as president of MRAA’s educational foundation.

Build a shared inventory list and agree on the terms you can both benefit from. Discuss the boat shows each of you will be covering and come to a mutual agreement on what boats, prices, etc., each can promote from the shared list. In these times, two dealers could be better than one — three better than two — in moving inventory.

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