501 Ocean Drive
North Wildwood, NJ 08260
7,926-sq.-ft. dealership founded in 1999 at the present location on an island resort. Carries Sea-Doo personal watercraft and sport boats, plus Mercury outboard motors. “We're right on an inlet, so we only have to go a couple of hundred yards in one direction to ride in the ocean waves, or in the other direction to ride in the calm back bay,” says Grace. “The majority of our customers hang out on the weekend at Champagne Island, a sandbar that people camp and party on. It's right in view from our backyard.” Largest-selling segment is three-seater watercraft. 15 employees.
“Prices have climbed, but times are good right now,” says Grace. “If we have an economic downturn, the cost of the toys might be too much. Overall, the future looks bright.” Grace has been in the industry for 22 years.
Sea-Doos that are selling like wildfire at Wildwood: The 215 HP three-seater RXT musclecraft and the sporty convertible (standup/sitdown) 3-D. “We sell a lot of personal flotation devices, tubes for towing, and the usual PWC items,” says Grace.
CUSTOMER BUYING TRENDS
Grace says his customer base is “definitely upscale. The kids range from 7 to 20 years of age, which puts their parents in the 35-to-55 age bracket. Our outboard customers go all the way up into their late 70s, and are mostly buying their motors for center-console fishing boats. The PWC aftermarket industry-customizing and performance upgrades-has dwindled down to almost nothing. I'm sorry to see that, because in the late 1980s it was all about expressing yourself through custom paint and custom engines. Back then, though, the PWC really wouldn't make enough power, so riders had to go to the aftermarket. Today's watercraft are very adequate right out of the box.”
“New Jersey was one of the first states to implement a boater safety training requirement for all personal watercraft users of any age,” explains Grace. “That hurt in the 1990s, but we've bounced back; people just take it as a given and are willing to spend a day at the course and move on.”
PARTS AND SERVICE
Wildwood Sea-Doo has two dedicated parts salespeople and eight in service (including writers, managers, and technicians). “We've been Platinum Certified since Sea-Doo started it,” says Grace. “This Winter we expanded into a new 2,100-sq.-ft. showroom devoted to sport boats.” The dealership includes a dock, a marina, and a boat ramp. “What' has helped us in caring for our customers are the extended services that we offer. Customers can buy a watercraft from us without a trailer. We put it in at our dock, and they can ride it to their house on the water and use it for the summer. At the end of the season they bring it back and we haul it out, winterize it, shrink-wrap it, and rack store it. In spring we unwrap it, wash it, recommission it, tune it up, and put it back in the water for them - all for one price. Because it can be cold here, we have a short season. We sell 85% of our inventory in June and July.”
PROMOTIONAL HOME RUNS
Wildwood Sea-Doo uses boat shows and print ads for promotion. The fleet of eight rental units also helps. “We had a website, but a college kid was maintaining it and that fizzled out,” says Grace. “We used Bombardier co-op for a Boat Trader On-Line web page with all the 2005 units, and we can post used ones.”
WORDS OF ADVICE
Grace thinks customer communication is important. “We stay in touch with customers by phone, and remember their names when they visit. That also leads to new sales through references. And repeat business is huge. There are only so many people here are on the water. If you keep them happy, they'll come back to upgrade. In fact, some customers upgrade their watercraft every other year.”
- Julie Filatoff