So many people have asked us what we think of the Standup Paddleboard industry after attending the Outdoor Retailer Expo in Salt Lake City. Is it growing or is it dying? What’s going on? Did the bubble burst?
The best way to describe it is to consider that in the beginning, there was a pool of 100% of potential accounts for companies to sign and service. As the sport grew, so did that pool. It went beyond surf shops to paddle shops, outdoor outfitters, Kayak and Canoe shops, then marinas and resorts, clubs, camps, hotels. It was BOOMING. Now, there not only aren’t as many potential new accounts, there are fewer non-traditional accounts. That 100% is probably somewhere around 5%. Anyone who would carry SUPs, probably is at this point. But everyone who might paddle, doesn’t already own a board. Granted, there are opportunities at resorts and seasonal camps, new shops and expansions of existing chains. BUT, it’s not like it was.
Those companies that relied on that massive volume and flow of new accounts are now in trouble. Those who assumed that the purchasing of a new shop represented how they would purchase in the future, are now in trouble. Those who based their production and staffing on existing accounts, allowing for cycles for rentals and seasons are ok. It is the culling of the herd right now. That has nothing to do with the growth of the sport. It has to do with the health of the industry.
The good news is we have seen an enormous increase in the sale and purchasing of used boards on our site nationwide. This is great because it means people are selling old boards to buy new ones, and this in turn lowers the cost of entry into the sport for new people. We see definite growth. New races are popping up and there are new and growing pockets of paddlers. More people are giving it a try and it is still exciting. Even if Orlando Bloom didn’t SUP naked, there’s a bump in awareness and a desire to try it.
Advice: Keep growing the community. Keep looking for non-traditional customers. Look to the Northeast and midwest for 2017. It’s too late for 2016. Look to Canada. Work on your branding. Work on customer loyalty programs. This world wants to root for a team, to be identified with a team. Football, Baseball, Soccer, whatever. People tell a story by what they wear and they want to tell that story through paddling. Help them. Give a sticker, shirt and hat with every board and you have someone on your team. Connect with them. Meet them. Celebrate your customers and service them. Loyalty will keep you afloat when others are sinking.
The Mullet magazine