PWC accessories market now a sliver of its old self
Jeff Hemmel, Contributing Writer
July 9, 2012
Filed under Features
Dealers struggling to find accessories that sell for ‘loaded’ OEM craft
Dealers everywhere likely remember the industry’s “good old days,” when not only PWC sold well, but so did parts and accessories — from high-dollar performance parts to everyday items like flush kits, traction mats and grips. Obviously times have changed. But while PWC sales appear to be stabilizing, the sport’s once-thriving aftermarket has not followed suit. Instead, it has continued to shrink to a mere sliver of what it once was, leaving dealers with the question of just what accessories to stock — and will anyone buy them?
Powersports Business recently spoke to a selection of dealers in order to help find an answer. Don’t expect that $1 million idea. And don’t ignore the basics that come up time and time again.
While dealers might long for the days of thriving parts and accessory sales, the reality is that the market has changed dramatically.
“It used to be a customer would buy a PWC, and they’d hop up the motor, they’d buy an exhaust pipe, or they’d tweak this or buy that,” said Dan Boyle, owner of Pro Shop Motorsports and Marine in Henderson, Nev. “Now they run so well out of the box that people just buy them and ride them. You don’t see a lot of accessory sales like you used to.
“I think the machines are getting to be pretty expensive, and people buy them and are done. And the machines are loaded. Right now you get a Sea-Doo and it’s got air and water temp, compass, depth finder, suspension, brakes, a supercharger. Other than some gloves, there’s just not a lot of money that customers are spending on other stuff. They’re buying the machine, and they’re going right to the lake.”
Boyle says he has seen a downturn in the amount of accessorizing being done by new buyers.
“In the old days they’d want to hop it up a little or customize the seat, but the OEM stuff is so good right now we’re not seeing a lot of accessorizing,” he said.
Cody Belluchi of Yacht Club Marina in Osage Beach, Mo., shares the opinion.
“The skis are getting better and better, and people just aren’t buying stuff anymore. I don’t see hardly any performance parts moving,” Belluchi said.
While the performance parts decline may be expected, even perennial favorites like traction mats and seat covers have tapered off.
“They’re still selling, but not until the factory ones are gone,” Boyle said. “Customers are getting a good mat right out of the chute, so they’re not really replacing those until they’re five or six years old.”
“Not anymore,” Belluchi agrees. “We’ll see some people coming in for service asking about new mats, but it’s not because they just want new ones or a fresh look, it’s because their old ones are trash. It’s the same with grips.”
One benefit to accessory sales for items such as traction mats and grips is that pre-owned PWC are proving extremely popular in the current market. These buyers are slightly more inclined to want to refresh their skis, and items like mats, seat covers and grips are typically the first — and easiest — items to change.
Back To Basics
So if performance parts and the like aren’t selling, what exactly is? It might not be sexy, but according to the dealers we spoke with it’s the tried-and-true basics.
“The most common accessory that goes with just about every deal is a cover,” said Robert “Bumper” Kenton of Performance Powersports in Seneca, S.C. “A lot of times people will get a waterproof document bag, trailer tie-down straps. Yamahas come with those key fobs. We usually recommend everybody get floating key chains, as those are expensive parts to replace. Those are probably the most consistent.”
Other products that have stood the test of time are life jackets, fire extinguishers and the occasional tube or towable and towrope. Wetsuits appear to be only proving moderately popular at best, although like all other items, it’s impossible for dealers to determine what customers may be buying on the Internet after the sale.
As for new avenues to explore, function seems to win out over form.
“Waterproof anything is pretty popular right now,” Belluchi said. “Stuff like cell phone cases, dry bags, anything to protect a phone or gear.”
Beyond the norm, several items stand out, at least in Belluchi’s dealership near Lake of the Ozarks.
“I’ll sell a rack of those Bomber floating sunglasses in a weekend,” he said. “That’s not too bad. Those Hull Hugr bumpers are also pretty hot. Just about every craft we sell out of here I’ll have a set that goes with them. People have no problem paying for that.”
Both Belluchi and Kenton also noted that towrope “shock” tubes are surprisingly big sellers. “It just goes around the rope and keeps it from getting sucked up into the intake,” Kenton said. “But those have been really popular for us.”
So while performance products might not be moving as they once did, there are staples that any sales staffer can add to the sales ticket lines.