Small, family run businesses in their respective fields are often overshadowed by conglomerate giants. For those who focus on retail, large warehouses and online stores building pressure to smaller stores who offer a more personal experience for shoppers. In the scuba and water sports market, more and more large retailers and outfitters are beginning to emerge and we wonder if we should be concerned.
Scuba diving has always been famed for its select enthusiasts, perhaps due to the expense of the equipment and high costs of transport to each remote dive site. In present times, now that flights have become more affordable and numerous brands are emerging on the market, diving has seen an influx of participants in recent years. With a greater number of divers, the need for equipment has risen exponentially. We can effortlessly search in google and instantly be overwhelmed by the number of shopping options available.
It seems that there is a trend where many scuba gear manufacturers would rather sell to large warehouses with vast stock holdings as well as online stores than to a small local dive shop down the road. This is due to many reasons such as longer opening hours and the fact that they can offload their product in bulk cutting costs with the possibility of selling more stock.
Adreno, Dive Warehouse, LeisurePro, Simply Scuba, Scubastore and Divers Direct are all renowned scuba retailers that hold such giant warehouses around the world, full of stock and in turn will be the first hit on a google search for scuba accessories. They have an immense range of brands, prices and often have excellent shipping options to the more remote areas of the world. While this seems to be a win-win situation for divers it is worth considering a number of factors before purchasing from these sites.
Ironically dive gear manufactures inform dive centres that to become retailers in their own right they must adhere to certain rules. Owning a dive compressor, employing instructors and offering dive courses are a handful of expectations that should be met before selling brands. Large warehouses however, do not have the same regulations and continue to sell at high rates. In recent times, many big gear brands including Mares, Scubapro, Aqualung or Cressi started to sell their products via Amazon directly to the end customer, cutting out any middle man in their supply chain.
Accredited dive shops are able to professionally inform about maintenance of their equipment and when and where to service intricate equipment such as regulators and computers so that divers are never in danger underwater. We observe an increasing number of newly certified divers that attend certified diving tours with their new equipment, purchased online or at a large retail warehouses, which is not suitable for their specific needs and they also often struggle to operate it properly.
ARE DIVE CENTRES MORE EXPENSIVE THAN LARGE WAREHOUSES?
Additionally, remember that If you are a member of a dive shop community, there are often discounts on equipment, trips and lectures – another bonus. Matching an online price is often not the issue for a local dive centre. Simply ask them.
In America, Amazon is slowly emerging as a serious competitor in the scuba diving equipment market due to their ease of purchase philosophy. It seems that just as they have impacted smaller businesses’ of many other sports such as cycling and climbing, they can easily affect scuba diving by creating closure of many of our beloved institutions. That being said, before you think about saving yourself a few dollars consider these valuable factor; Locally owned businesses build strong communities by recycling a much larger share of their revenue back into the local economy, create more local jobs and preserve a one of a kind character that large retailers do not. We are all guilty of being temped by a deal or a cheaper price, yet remember the long-term repercussions of large corporations to scuba diving.
WILL AMAZON BECOME A BIG PLAYER FOR DIVE GEAR IN AUSTRALIA?
Well, usually whatever happens in the USA will eventually happen in Australia a few months or years down the road. Brands like Mares, Scubapro, Auqalung or Cressi are already available for purchase on Amazon Australia and this seems to be just the beginning. Amazon Australia could have been a real option for small dive centres to become a platform for their own online trade in order to compete with larger scuba online stores however the manufactures already removed that additional link within their supply chain by selling directly to the end customer.
WHAT DOES THE DIVE CENTRE OF THE FUTURE LOOK LIKE?
The traditional dive shops will continue to vanish as they lose focus on equipment retail. You will notice that new dive businesses have often a much more streamlined overhead structure and run more cost effective with a strong focus on encouraging divers to hire scuba gear at affordable rates rather than purchasing their own. Something that makes a lot of sense in times where sharing services in general becomes more and more popular.
Those dive centres that chose to open their doors in the traditional way often last no longer than 12 months, a trend that can be observed more and more often in recent times. Rent expenses for retail shop fronts are hard to afford along with declining retail sales revenues for small dive shops. The times where a dive centre pays its rent and overheads through equipment retail are defiantly over.
WHO WILL SERVICE MY GEAR?
That will be an interesting question. With the decreasing number of full service dive centres, locations for service and repair will become more rare. A trend for the future could be that more and more small service centres will establish that purely focus on scuba gear maintenance and repair. Another trend is to ship your gear interstate to a service centre of your choice. Many of them already offer collection and return via courier providers at a small fee.