The BP Effect series is brought to you by attorneys Reich & Binstock and Seeger Weiss LLP, which are helping businesses in Panama City Beach recover losses sustained directly and indirectly from the Deep Water Horizon oil spill. They can help your business too, The BP Effect series is brought to you by attorneys Reich & Binstock and Seeger Weiss LLP, which are helping businesses in Panama City Beach recover losses sustained directly and indirectly from the Deep Water Horizon oil spill. They can help your business too,
If you’re in the market for a kayak, Sunjammers Watersports in Panama City Beach is the place to go. There are few others that sell kayaks in the area, but during the summer 2010, they sold 40% what they sold in the summer of 2009 – and kayak sales is their bread and butter. Luckily, low overhead and a diversified selling strategy allowed them to keep their doors open. The BP Effect was clear and present for Sunjammers this summer. Not only were kayak sales way down, other aspects of their business they were growing saw a fraction of the growth they were expecting.
Got a yak?
For years, Sunjammers has been the premier place to go for kayak sales. Being a destination hub for “yak” anglers, owner, Brad Stephens, created a strong community and local following based around this niche. Late last year, seeing huge demand, he began putting a huge emphasis on bait and tackle supplies, with the desire to cater to his loyal customers. This was a quickly growing part of his business – but sales fell through the floor when The BP Effect started taking it’s toll on the area.
The well can’t be capped.
“As soon as someone said it could be months before they got that thing capped, sales just dropped off,” Brad said. Talking about the time-frame of around mid-May when the national press blasted the horror story, inflicting images of an oil-covered Gulf. “I was in Tennessee visiting family and was watching, on the news, oil rolling ashore in the waves and reporters saying that was Panama City Beach. . . I had my shop manager physically go to the beach and take a picture right then and send it to me.” Of course, we all know that we never saw more than a few instances of sparsely scattered tarballs that were cleaned up in hours on the pristine beaches of Panama City Beach. Beaches west of here saw oil filled waves wash ashore, but we NEVER saw anything close to that here.
The media is what nailed us.
Brad agreed when he said the thing that hurt us the worst this summer was how the media reacted and reported the BP oil spill. Outlets across the country were confusing the beaches that were seeing oil with beaches that weren’t, all the time. Brad mentioned that he had out of state family that told him there WAS oil on the beach in Panama City Beach and that Brad was wrong, even though he lived here – that there were “confirmed” reports of heavy oil on the beach – or so the “news” was saying.
People were telling me that I was lying about oil not being here in my weekly oil spill video updates, I was told that I was in denial by people that were not even here. Back to the story. – Jason, the author.
Growth and detriment.
A tricky part for Brad is that a quickly growing aspect of his business was bait and tackle sales. This is something he wasn’t doing very much of last year. This year’s numbers, despite an oil spill scare, are still higher than last year – not much, but still a little higher. But Brad’s left to wonder, how would they have fared had the oil spill not occurred? Substantial growth would have surely been realized.
Other ways his business was damaged with the BP mess that happened this summer:
- He was hesitant to hold inventory because of slow sales – missed sales opportunity due to lacking product.
- He had difficulty in getting bait supplies – e.g. shrimpers weren’t shrimping, they were oiling, and making more money doing it.
- Hobie Cat catamaran sales were a fraction of what they were in 2009.
- Expansion opportunities lost – wanted to move into paddle boards, more guided tours and kayak rentals, but couldn’t risk bringing on the inventory.
Some good from it all.
For Stephens, The BP Effect wasn’t all bad. For all smart business people, times of trial are opportune for innovation, if you have a quick eye. Brad stepped up his online social marketing (spent more time growing his Facebook community, produced online web tv show), put a bigger push in online sales (a steady and growing part of his business already), spent more money in advertising, and found new products to sell that weren’t related to our sensitive Gulf environment – like fresh-water bait.
And, now that BP is paying out to employees, Stephens said locals are spending money like they just got their tax return checks in. He’s had a very recent surge of kayak sales and has realized how much pent-up demand there has been. In fact, sales across the board have picked up dramatically and he’s began having days where he’s “slammed” again, much to his enjoyment. “Of course, the recent surge in sales isn’t even coming close to making up for our losses over the summer,” Brad said.
The green grass on the other side.
With the threat of oil in our waters over the summer, Brad believes people are fishing more now than they were before. People seem to have a greater appreciation for what we have here. I know I do. People are definitely coming in town now that Snapper season is opened back up, Brad said. Again, it’s not even coming close to making up for the losses over the summer, but every little bit helps, right?
Brad still has plans for expansion. He’s planning on having a connected showroom with tons more square footage than he now has. He developed new aspects of his business and started doing new things for promotion that he’d never done before, so he learned from this summer’s experience. The BP Effect took it’s toll, but it didn’t bring this angler down, he’s gonna live to sell another lure.
Sunjammers Watersports is located on Highway 79, less than a half mile north of Back Beach Road. Visit their website for more information, or give Brad a call at 866-SUN-JAMM.
Here are more pictures of the shop.