MAATS: the three 'Ps' of accessory retailing

ORLANDO, Fla. - Marine Accessories Retail 101 presented the basics of retailing and some tricks of the trade for attendees of the Marine Aftermarket Accessories Trade Show.

The seminar, one of three offered this year at MAATS, was presented by John Thommen, CEO of Ocean Marketing, and Dan Aulwurm, assistant vice president and divisional merchandise manager of hardlines for West Marine.

Thommen and Aulwurm outlined the five "Ps" of marine accessory retailing: price, programs, position, packaging and presentation.

In terms of pricing, Aulwurm urged accessory manufacturers to do their homework and make sure the product will be profitable enough for a retailer to stock, while using logical price points. Though there's only a 26 cent difference in price between a $9.99 item and a $10.25 item, the lower priced item will have more retail success, he said.

"The customer is used to seeing 99s," Aulwurm said.

He urged the audience to consider co-op and marketing programs, reminding manufacturers they need to market their products, too, and can't count on the retailer to do all the work.

Thommen said accessory manufacturers need to consider where a product fits in. Is it a top-quality product sold as an OEM replacement application, a value product, a budget product? If it's a budget product, sold purely on price, it must offer substantial savings to the consumer.

Aulwurm said retailers look at many factors when adding products to their shelves. Products should be unique, less expensive/more profitable, more effective, better-looking, last longer, or solve a problem better. There needs to be a reason why a store should keep it in stock.

Also, Thommen said, it's important to offer warranties, which should be clearly stated. "Be ready for cradle-to-grave responsibility," he said.

Packaging must sell the product. It must be noticeable, and Aulwurm urged manufacturers to step back four feet and look at packaging from that angle when determining its effectiveness. Packaging should be compact, attractive, durable, economical and environmentally friendly.

Use a color scheme that is noticeable, but remember not to get lost in a "sea of blue," Thommen said. Four-color packaging is the way to go.

Size does matter in packaging, he said. Manufacturers should take note of where the product will be positioned in the store and if it will easily fit into displays. Packaging should not be more than 25 percent greater than the size of the product.

"Hit the message hard and fast," Aulwurm recommended. Packaging does not have a lot of time to make an impression on the customer, so it should clearly state what the product is, what it does and list benefits in a smaller font.

As for presentation, Thommen said products should always be described in a features-and-benefits format. "End users buy benefits, not features," he said. "Do not romance your product; be objective as to the performance."

— Beth Rosenberg



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