By Jeff Hemmel
Engine remanufacturing giant Short Block Technologies (SBT) has further expanded its reach into the PWC market with the launch of the Watercraft Superstore, an online shopping site the company touts as the most extensive online store dedicated exclusively to PWC.
Visitors to the Superstore will find everything from what was already offered on SBT’s site (sbtontheweb.com), such as engine and pump parts, to general interest items, like trailer parts, life vests, wetsuits, seat covers and watercraft safety items.
“We started looking at what was available out there for the PWC-dedicated market,” said company head Cj Lammers of the decision to expand the company’s reach. “Obviously we’ve done everything we can to have everything under the seat, as advertised, but we didn’t really feel anyone was targeting, or dedicated to the PWC market. You’ve got Overton’s and iBoats and others who try to hit all audiences, but don’t really concentrate on the individual needs of the owners we represent.”
With that in mind, and the fact that the company already had a base of offerings to bring from SBT, the idea of a PWC Superstore came to fruition. “We thought, ‘Hey, why can’t we do this as well, and meet the niche needs of PWC members.”
SBT principals began discussing the idea of the online store in mid-2008, and kicked things off online late last year. And though the economy has certainly made the timing of that launch a tough one, Lammers indicates things are progressing well. Much of the reason for that early success is the strength and reputation of the company behind the site.
“It’s still growing,” Lammers said of the Superstore. “Obviously we launched at a difficult time. But what’s good about Watercraft Superstore is it does have the backing of SBT and all its resources, which will allow it to grow. It also helps its reputation. You’re not buying from a new startup company with no background or no reputation you have to worry about. Watercraft Superstore is tied intimately to SBT. We obviously have a long reputation, and a very good reputation, that we don’t want sullied. The customers have that as their backup, and we think that will give them the comfort zone to purchase even though Watercraft is still a newcomer.”
In For The Long Haul
In many ways, Watercraft Superstore will follow the lead of SBT.
“It’s the same basic business model, but over time looking at where the growth areas are and addressing those for volume,” said Lammers. “What’s really driven SBT’s growth and ability to function in the market is the ability to tackle customer-friendly prices, but what we required then is the volumes to do it. Watercraft Superstore would be difficult without the resources of SBT.”
Presently, Watercraft Superstore will be a distributor for some established names, such as wetsuit and apparel manufacturer Jet Pilot. The company is also sourcing some of their own product and marketing it under the Watercraft Superstore brand, much like SBT has done on the engine parts front. “We will continue to work both of those relationships to see where we can expand,” said Lammers, “and what we can do ourselves. The intent is to carry both, to give the opportunity to the PWC shopper to have both the brand name and to have a nearly equal quality, but lower-priced option.”
In many ways, the timing of a low-priced “superstore” seems like a smart business move in the current economy, but Lammers tempers that assumption with a little perspective. “It is ideal in that stance, if (the economy) hadn’t taken such an extreme hit. The balance between consumers being more price-conscious, while still wanting high quality, often would go toward SBT. At the same time, with the precipice we fell off of economically as a country, it has outweighed the value proposition often, as far as the volumes you would initially expect.
“But it’s not a short-term proposal for us. We see that we can serve the clients we already have, and the clients that we target, with this opportunity. And like I say, we have the weight of SBT behind it.”
Bigger Than SBT?
As to how profitable this side of the business could become, Lammers notes the potential of Watercraft Superstore could far outpace SBT in the long run.
“It could be bigger than SBT, definitely,” he said. “If you consider how many times you replace motors vs. how many times you go through life jackets, apparel and everything else, the volume could end up surpassing SBT. As long as we develop the same reputation of quality and price point that we’ve been able to with many SBT parts, we think we’re going to be pretty successful.”