Americans love their boats and RVs, their “babies,” which come with a world of needs. These vehicles must be prepared for each season of activity and later readied for storage. Enter the boat/RV storage facility that stocks a range of handy products to make life easier for proud “toy” owners.
On-site retail sales can be a windfall for a storage operator. If you’re developing a new project or want to revamp current inventory, consider products that complement boat and RV use. There’s a huge range of merchandise from which to choose, and quick catalog ordering makes it easy to offer more goods than your retail space actually holds.
RV Retail Revenue
“Some $14.9 billion worth of RV-related services and products were sold in 2002,” says Philip Ingrassia, vice president of communications for the National RV Dealers Association, pointing out that RVs require many standard household items. While in the past it was common for retailers to offer replacement parts, the new trend is to sell accessories such as winterizing and de-winterizing products, which range in price from $2 to $40.
Because tanks must be flushed before a vehicle is placed in storage, related items are popular, says George Grengs, president of Mission Hills, Calif.-based Valterra Products Inc. With a catalog price of $7.12, the company’s Master Blaster tank wand and power nozzle is an economical cleaning device. Flushing products are another good candidate for retail sales. Ranging in price from $8 to $27, these include valve caps and adapters, pump-converter kits, plastic hand pumps, and blow-out plugs. Valterra even offers merchandise displays that require minimum space while showcasing a complete selection of items.
Consumable products are always a winner, according to Susan Carpenter, co-owner of New York-based JR Products Inc. All RV owners use toilet paper, chemicals, replacement towing pins, antifreeze, water fresheners, cleaners and dehumidifiers. JR’s best sellers are door hardware and replacement hatches, small enough to be stocked in a compact retail area; and its stainless-steel party-light hangers and low-profile rocker switches are just hitting the market.
Proper use of plan-o-grams and freestanding displays is the best way for a facility to exhibit merchandise. “Make sure the plan-o-grams are geared toward your store and not what the supplier wants to sell you,” Carpenter advises. If you have a small store, stock the most popular items and discard those that are obsolete. A retail center should earn a 35 percent to 50 percent margin. “In reality, it’s the profit that drives the facility owner to create the store,” Carpenter says. “But making customers happy brings them back.”
There’s even more money to be had by offering services in addition to products, Carpenter says. “If you’re already storing RVs, you can definitely boost profits by offering to winterize and de-winterize them for customers.”
“Fall lay-up of his boat is possibly the most important maintenance duty a boater will perform,” says Steve Tadd, director of “Discover Boating” programs for the National Marine Manufacturers Association. Proper winterization will prevent costly damage that can result from freezing, dormancy, corrosion and moisture, and will allow for a smooth launch come springtime. Three or four hours of work and some inexpensive maintenance materials and tools can get the job done right,” Tadd says.
Items boat owners should add to their shopping list include winterizing products that contain rust inhibitors; cleaners such as “No Damp” or another form of mildew control; gear-case lubricant; propylene glycol antifreeze (-200 antifreeze is best for engines); flushing kits; and oil and oil filters. “Winterizing items will vary depending on the region or climate,” says Marc Malkin, manager of public relations and communications for Ritz Interactive Inc., the e-commerce network that owns and operates marine-specialty online retailer BoatersWorld.com.
The first line of defense for a boat and its equipment is adequate preparation. Items such as shrink-wrap installation are necessary for protection. Engines and other moving parts containing fluids should be drained or stabilized to prevent freezing. Related products include fuel stabilizer, crankcase-oil stabilizer, fogging oil, engine grease/lube, engine flusher, electric dehumidifiers and water absorbers. Top sellers carried by Boater’s World retail centers include Camco W inter Ban 50, a marine antifreeze; Sta-Bil Fuel Stabilizer, which flushes out the engine; and CRC Engine Storage Fogging Fluid. The company’s newest line is Valvtect, which includes marine fogging oil and stabilizer.
The boat trailer shouldn’t be overlooked, says Malkin. The smart retailer will stock trailer couplers, balls, hitch receivers, winches, winch cables, jacks, hitch/coupler locks, tie-downs/ bungee cords, wheel chocks, replacement lights, fuses, tool kits and spare-tire covers.
Savvy business owners from coast to coast have already realized the profit potential of boat and RV storage. Now well-planned and stocked retail centers provide convenience for boat/RV users while creating ancillary income for the facility. These babies do have needs, and an on-site store is the way to meet them.
Sources for Boat/RV Products and Accessories
Boater’s World Marine Centers
Camping World Inc.
Valterra Products Inc.