Why can’t we buy gear at North American Dive Shows?
I just returned from a trip that included visits to dive shows in Paris and Dusseldorf. It was a working trip and a bloody hard slog at times. Several days after getting back to North America, I am still waiting for my checked baggage, with my truck keys and shaving kit packed inside, to arrive. But despite all, the trip was worth the effort; if for nothing else for the lessons it taught me about the dive industry… or at least the portion of it that deals with running dive shows.
Perhaps the biggest and most obvious difference between European shows and those in North America is that punters in Europe can buy stuff. At Salon de la Plongee and BOOT Show, people were buying drysuits, rebreathers, regulators, BCDs, wings and backplates… and vacations! Imagine that. Both the Paris and Dusseldorf shows (and a couple of English shows I’ve attended in the past) seemed to be busier too. Is attendance density related to the ability for consumer to purchase kit? I suspect this is the case.
Someone once explained that you cannot buy dive gear at shows in North America because of liability issues. You can place an order at a stand and have it shipped to you later, but you can’t buy it on the spot and stuff it in your backpack. Anyone else think this is silly? It makes zero sense to me and the liability argument must surely pre-date internet purchases. After all, I can buy a rebreather off eBay no questions asked… surely there’s a greater weight of liability buying something that way than face-to-face with a manufacturer at a dive show.
Could be entirely unrelated but another difference in Europe is the age and general appearance of the punters walking the show… the demographics actually. The average attendee is younger. It is not just that there seem to be a lot more 30-somethings in the audience, but many have their children with them… diving seemed to be more of a family event in France and Germany. There were even dive-related events and displays specifically targeted at future bubble blowers.
I have seen campaigns over here that make a big thing out of diving bringing out the kid in all of us, but we ban kids from coming into the largest dive show on the continent!
There’s a lot wrong with the way North Americans package and market diving. Letting punters bring their kids and allowing them to buy at shows is not going to fix much, perhaps, but good lord, it might help surely.
Not sure if anyone from DEMA is listening to any of this, but if you are, take note. Two free marketing tips: Include Consumers and Future Consumers in your tired worn out show.