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Operational Survey: How is Dive Retail’s Business in 2021?

By October 27, 2021November 12th, 2021No Comments

With the industry still moving through Covid we want you to see how dive retail is doing this year. This survey compares retail this year to business in 2019, before the pandemic hit.

The year 2019 is also a good comparison because it was a good economic year, and a good year overall for dive retail. Most of the indicators in the 2019 year-end survey were at the highest positive levels since 2003 when this survey began. With that for comparison, this year’s survey indicates that fifty-two percent of stores are doing even better in 2021 than they were in 2019 and twenty-six percent are doing the same. Twenty-two percent are doing worse.

This would be counterintuitive, especially since dive travel is still restricted, but outdoor activities in the U.S. are experiencing record participation and diving’s right in line.

One caveat to this survey is that we don’t have a handle yet on the number of dive stores that didn’t make it through the pandemic. Obviously these results represent the stores that have.


Following is a selection of comments from retailers who answered the survey about how business is in 2021 compared (to the last normal year) 2019.

Any additional comments?

Our repeat customers are keeping us solidly in the black. Equipment sales are up slightly. Repairs and rentals are doing very well. We are still on hold for any confined water training as the local pools cannot find staffing to rent their pools.

We were doing pretty good 2017 through 2020, but in the last 8 months have seen a drastic decline. The current administration’s war on our freedoms & economy has, I am afraid, forever changed the logistics of the dive industry in the USA. We are currently considering a move to the Bahamas in the very near future. Thanks.

Can’t sell what we can’t get.

COVID has been a double-edged sword, bringing with it all the terrible things that many had to ensure, and the impact on so many businesses as well, even still now. But from our biased point of view, it has been a very good thing for our business. Go figure!

Equipment sales are up due to COVID. People do not want to rent so buying gear instead of renting. Some people got tired of trying to travel overseas so they are diving locally.

With travel slow to recover we see our open water classes getting ever smaller. This is holding back overall recovery. Less start up, less con-ed, less sales. Difficult spiral to get out of.

Our gear sales have more than doubled since 2019. Training remained consistent from 2019 thru 2020. 2021 has seen a growth, especially in con-ed.

Reminds me of the mid 80s, with OW student enrollment over the top! Also local diving almost double the load this year, although mostly new students going out to get cert dives completed.

Now if we could only get the government to butt out of our business and quit scaring people we could make this go!

Sales are fantastic.

Business is pretty good now but not compared to 2019 which was our best year ever.

We spent a good deal of time and energy at the start of April 2020 trying to keep our customers involved. We directly emailed and used social media to invite them to take classroom only (ecology courses and others) courses via Zoom. During the summer, we did the same with local diving and it paid off. 2020 was near the same as 2019. 2021 surpassed 2020 in July.

Online sales are killing us, and people’s lack of planning is making training very difficult.

Big issue now is supply chain breakdown, keeping us from being fully stocked. We would be selling much more equipment if we had it available to sell.

When we make an equipment sale delivery is delayed or taking forever.

I feel that equipment sales would be quite a bit higher if we weren’t suffering from supply-chain-related issues (especially neoprene products and repair service kits).

We are in an area where 20’ vis is good. A lot of people won’t dive here so when travel was shut down people canceled out of classes. Not many people who completed class/pool finished as their tropical trips got canceled and many are unwilling to wear a 7mm suit, hood, and do Open Water dives in local lakes. Hoping people are able and then willing to travel this winter.

Our customers have been great. Our staff has been great. In light of all that is going on, we have been blessed and are thankful for such a wonderful and supportive local diving community.

We attribute our good fortune to the following. It appears that everyone is fleeing the states and visiting the USVI. In addition, several other Caribbean Islands had COVID restrictions making the USVI a more practical choice. Thank you.

2019 was our best year ever – then COVID hit. We survived and we are now building back.

We are doing better than 2020 but not as good as 2019. Hopeful 2022 will be back to how it was in 2019 or better.

If we could actually get product like wetsuits. We would be doing beyond much better. Can’t keep product on the shelf. If it was not for our restrictions of small classes or private our classes would of been much better.

All our diving spots are closing making training very difficult in we now have to drive 5 hours to conduct certifications. We used to drive 2 hours. Backorders are through the roof and customers are buying more than ever online to get the equipment we cannot. 42 years in the business and closing the doors is looking more attractive every day.

My 2021 name is “Mr. Backorder.”

We are closing the shop as of last month.

During the COVID shutdown, we stayed in contact with clientele to learn about what their needs/expectations would be post-COVID. We made plans to meet those needs. Thinking outside the box, changing the way we do things, has made us more efficient, more profitable, and expanded our business. We’re doing better now than before COVID. Other shops in our area have permanently closed. We’re happy with all our changes and the success we’ve found by finding ways to push through.

8,000 square foot retail, training area with 100,000-gallon pool closed due to governor shutting down in three counties. Kept travel agency open.

Best year in 50!!!

We would have done better this year if we could have obtained equipment. Too many backorders, still have some from February. Somebody blowing smoke up somebody’s? Why the push for all the big booking orders when they can’t fill simple orders. This is a time for Dive Shops to band together as a Business group maybe manufacture, training agencies would start to think about selling direct to our customers. DEMA’s seminars are exactly what they want you to hear. Local Diving has been off due to one of the windiest summers I can remember not lack of participation. I had to cancel every charter from Aug 15 to Sept 26 but finally got a charter out yesterday for the 1st time in 6 weeks.

It’s been a bit of a catch 22. We’ve had people signing up for classes like crazy, but we can’t seem to get enough gear in to sell. Whether it’s a neoprene shortage, container shortage, nobody working the docks in California, no computer chips from China…whichever story/lies are true, it’s been a struggle keeping up with customer demand. And we carry EVERY major brand, so you’d think we’d have had plenty of options. None of our manufacturers have been able to get us stuff.

After a one-month closure in April of 2019 we have been gangbusters! Thankful to be in Florida!

The ONLY real issue we had for 2021 was the supply-chain problems suffered by everyone! We had more people doing classes and interested in gear but simply couldn’t fill order requests. Most people were willing to be patient, but not all. Hopefully, this will resolve before next season!

Because of the pandemic funding I was able to upgrade my equipment to lower my cost of pumping nitrox and other expenses, that’s improving my net income. Upcoming trip to Bonaire November – Keeping our fingers crossed. Local diving was really good previous summer and this last summer. People figured out you could don your dive “mask” and social distance underwater.

Almost all of our business is from people wanting to learn for upcoming vacations or trips. Local diving is seasonal and usually just for training and some recreation in Dutch Springs. Until people are able to travel freely I don’t see classes getting back to normal.

Social Distance is killing the diving business.

The companies that supply the shops are not delivering product so how can we sell this whole COVID thing is b/s get this country back to work, the government has created a giant mess paying people to sit on their butts and get paid what a joke.

Getting product is difficult!

Since many people are not spending money on other pursuits, diving is rising to the TOP of the bucket lists. We are thankfully busy. Only difficulty is in the supply chain and getting some of the retail items in the shop to sell.

We still don’t have pool access.

Due to COVID, we have lost much of our sales and instructional staff, which has limited our hours and number of students we can realistically take in the Puget Sound. We are also finding that we cannot compete with the fast-food restaurants (or Amazon, etc.) that are offering $20 an hour (or more) to start, which makes it hard to hire someone with no experience & offer them training (both sales floor and diving) & other benefits and have them leave just as they gain the experience to work alone.

I would be better if we could get product.

When were closed last year we spent time going after leads, contracts and reaching out to any of our commercial accounts such as public safety dive team, aquariums etc. Having time with them to spend has almost doubled our sales of our best year we had in the last 18 years. I believe thinking outside the box and recreating yourself is key to success in this business especially since COVID. I don’t run my business today like I did yesterday has been my motto for last 18 years.

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