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If we can wish for anything good to come from this deep recession, it should be less boats! No, I’m not talking about less boat sales, just a lot less models.

Aside from the fact that the current economic debacle will likely take out some boatbuilders and their dealers, when things finally turn around our industry needs to move away from the “choice overload” scenario we helped foster in the last decade or so.

Choice overload has made its way into virtually every part of our lives, and it’s not good, according to Business Week magazine. For example, in recent years automakers have offered a staggering 1,100 model combinations, while local supermarkets bombard shoppers with 120 pasta sauces or 360 shampoos. As best I can tell (I’m not sure anyone really knows) we were offering more than 700 boat models before this downturn slammed on the brakes.

What researchers are finding is that when buyers have to sit down and review too many possibilities, they often push back from all of them in frustration and buy nothing. Or, if they do buy, they don’t enjoy the one they’ve selected because they think they may have passed up a better choice. The truth is, as choices multiply, the odds actually do increase that a better choice exists! So some experts now say that while we once clamored for more choices as consumers, we now generally feel less satisfied when we have so many choices.

Clearly this recession is going to force some restructuring of many business models in our industry. One change should be a reduction in the number of boat models offered. Doing so will not just move us away from the consumer’s frustration with too many choices; it will streamline those manufacturers and dealers who are still standing after this storm ends. The fact that, in the past, many major builders tried to be all things to all people has resulted in dealers having to seek ever-increasing floorplans to accommodate too many models, leaving them more vulnerable to economic downturns like this one.

In the future, success for boatbuilders will be in making themselves “leaner and meaner” by producing fewer models with higher quality, which will also result in a stronger, more profitable distribution system of dealers and satisfied customers.



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