So many lessons to learn…

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.


4 thoughts on “So many lessons to learn…

  1. I think, Steve, that one of the main threats to the show organizers is that the local dive shops threaten to pull out and will tell their customers not to attend if shops sell at the shows. This assumes that shops have a loyal client base, not always a sure bet in the age of internet marketing.

    This goes back to the shops wanting to “capture” their customer from cradle to grave, so to speak. shops don’t want their punters to know that there is diving in places other than where the shops go, they don’t want the punters to know that there are other places to buy gear, etc. Some dive shops think that their customers are learning disabled, and can’t make gear and vacation decisions on their own.

    The liability argument is hooey, although I keep hearing it. It would be easy enough for the show management to insist that anyone wanting to sell gear to add the show to their additional insured list. The sales tax argument is hooey also. I’ve heard that one a number of times. If a vendor wants to sell something, they need to follow the laws of the place they are selling it. Easy, and as the show isn’t selling anything, they have no sales tax liability.

    It will only take one show to open the floodgates of gear sales at shows. Here’s to someone having the cojones.

  2. I buy kit at the DEMA show, and have orders that arrive at a later date. The problem is, the cost of taking some of it on a plane. Only dive professionals are allowed to attend DEMA, so there is no problem with selling kit. Most companies, only bring what goes to display, so you have to wait till the end of the show. And kids? No way do I want to attend a business meeting with someones brat screaming and running amok! That’s for the flight home mate…

  3. With few exceptions, the diving “industry” in the U.S. does a very poor job marketing the sport as a whole. One need only look at other participatory outdoor sports – from bicycling to snow boarding – to see good examples of how to excite and motivate a customer base. Face it, diving is not interpreted as “hip.” Mountain biking, on the other hand, is. The DEMA crowd are using a worn out trade show template from the ’70s – and bring in so-called motivational sales speakers and “search engine optimization” experts and think they are serving the 21st century needs of members. Here’s the bottom line: The DEMA show makes money and sustains the organizers, promoters, the facility, the union, etc…if this dinosaur is making big bucks for the DEMA crowd – why change it? BTW, please explain the term “Punters” to my American compatriots who think it is that small guy who comes out and kicks an oblong-shaped pigskin on fourth and long…

  4. Funny, if you go to an American gun show you can buy a gun and as an added bonus the sale doesn’t have to go through the same channels as it would through a brick and mortar dealer (admittedly I haven’t been to a gun a show). I can’t see how liability would be an issue if the gear was legal in the state of purchase and there is no licensing requirement on dive gear. I have bought gear from dealers at swap meets and through Craig’s list. As long as they aren’t knowingly selling defective product I can’t see what the problem would be and as for sales tax, vendors at any convention are required to collect and report that as part of doing business… I go to comic book/ Sci-fi conventions with my kids all the time and if a guy selling samurai swords can work through the liability and tax issues (not to mention the college kids selling home brew comic books), I agree there is something wrong that you can’t buy an off the rack dry-suit….

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