MarineMax’s Online Boat Sale: The remedy for ‘slow traffic’?

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1. Lead-MarineMax

The MarineMax Online Boat Sale, which runs August 8-10, will most likely become a fixed event for the mega-retailer. Chuck Cashman, executive vice president at MarineMax, said the company’s previous online sales of used boats and yachts have performed well.

“Now, we’re seeing double the numbers in pre-registration from where we were last time,” Cashman told Trade Only Today. “We think it’s going to be pretty successful and we have the inventory to do it. I see this as a regular feature going forward.”

MarineMax CEO Brett McGill said on last week’s earnings call that the retailer had noticed “slower traffic” in its stores. “That is what pushed us to initiate the marketing initiatives and additional driving of the business, which obviously is more and more online marketing,” he said. “Yes, traffic was slower, which is why we were innovative with some things like our online boat sale and boat show.”

The national boat show concept first started with Genmar Holdings’ “Great American Boat Show” in 2003, when the company beefed up annual sales by holding factory-supported, national dealer events that included an online component.

MarineMax, however, is the only dealer that has held the online events. “You have to have a lot of inventory to do it,” says Cashman. “We’ll be offering hundreds of new and used boats in this one. We have a competitive advantage that most dealers can’t really match. How many could put 500 used boats out there?”

The sale will also include an auction of a late-model Sea Ray and Boston Whaler. MarineMax will only offer new boats from some brands, depending on specific dealer agreements with the builders. “We can’t sell new Sea Rays, for instance, because we’re not the national dealer for them,” he says. “The used boats won’t have warranties attached and aren’t restricted by dealer agreements.”

The sale is being held in August, says Cashman, because showroom traffic slows in late summer. “The whole point of this is to drive engagement for the customer and sell boats through online means,” he says. “Customers can literally look and buy in the comfort of their own homes. We think this will be a continuing trend.”

The last online sale of boats in March eventually led to 115 sales. “I’m not saying they were all new boats but they drove engagement to our dealerships,” said Cashman.

More than 5,000 people registered for the March event. Cashman says he expects that number to double for the August event.

“It’s a good time of year for an event like this,” he says. “Why not do it when we’re at a slower period for foot traffic?