What future for the boat dealer model?

Armorique Diffusion, the Bénéteau dealer of Pluneret

The boat sales model is changing. From the Bénéteau Group in France to the resellers' convention in the United States, the nautical industry is reflecting on the evolution of the dealer networks.

A model that must evolve

"The concession model will evolve. The product is no longer sufficient in a service ecosystem." It is a sentence, dropped like that by Hervé Gastinel, president of the Bénéteau group, in the middle of a debate on innovation at the Nautic, but which underlines an important problem. At a time of online purchasing and a great mobility of boaters, the relationship between customer and dealer has changed and large groups must adapt. Asked by BoatIndustry about this assertion, Mr Gastinel indicated that an internal reflection was under way, details of which he could not give. He nevertheless explained part of the process, while reassuring his network. "The concessionaire's existence is not in question. As we have seen in the car dealership, the single point of service model has exploded. In the future, we can imagine places where we do not sell, but where we educate boaters. The customer wants us to bring him experience, it is up to us to meet this requirement. The way distribution works will change. We have to go with the dealers, who can't have the full range of boats in stock."

Hervé Gastinel, Chairman of the Bénéteau Group Management Board

An international reflection

Dealers are adapting to the new boating market beyond the Paris boat show. The Marine Dealer Conference and Expo was held December 10-13, 2017 in Orlando, USA. The event brings together boat dealers from all over America. Across the Atlantic, too, the model is seeking to evolve. Sam Dantzler, trainer, explained to our Trade Only Today colleagues:"We can no longer manage a dealership as we did 5 years ago, let alone 20 years ago. There are social networks to manage." The speakers stressed the importance of the questions and information available on the Internet. Marcus Sheridan who advises dealers in the United States insists. "The majority of boating companies adhere to the ostrich technique in marketing. When 70% of the purchase decision is made by the customer before meeting the dealer, it is crucial that the industry provides the customer with the information he wants on his iPad or smartphone."

Marine Dealer Conference

Rapid changes

Without revealing a date, Hervé Gastinel said he hoped for rapid developments. The choices made by the group from Vendée could give some indications on the evolution of the structuring element of the nautical industry, which are the hundreds of boat dealers on the French coast.

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