OCEAN CITY – Sales, service and peace of mind are just a few of the key features offered at Action Marine, a full service dealership with two locations and 24 years of service on the Eastern Shore.
Linda Esham sat down with The Dispatch this week, discussing the ins and outs of the boating business, and highlighting all that Action Marine has to offer.
Action Marine debuted at its Selbyville location in 1984. In 2000, new owners David and Susan Miller took the helm, bringing with them the Fenwick Island location at Harpoon Hanna’s.
“They just thought it complemented what they were already doing over there,” said Esham, who has been with Action Marine since its start in 1984.
The Millers immediately embarked on expanding the business, explained Esham, landing the Yamaha franchise within the first year. Today, Action Marine is boasted as a White Diamond Dealer for Yamaha.
“It’s the highest level we can reach. We are one of the top Yamaha dealers on the East Coast,” explained Esham.
The Selbyville location also expanded to include the sale of Rockwood trailers, tent campers and travel trailers.
“We just started that this year, we’ve done very well so far,” Esham said of the Rockwood Trailers, describing the brand as an upgraded trailer, made of fiberglass to make it lighter and more durable.
“After the Millers bought the business, we also brought on Forest River Pontoon boats,” said Esham.
Action Marine has been doing business with Forest River Marine since 2000, bringing competitive pricing and reliability to the customer.
“They have a lot of buying power,” explained Esham. “and that gives me a lot of buying power, so the customer, you’re getting more for your money.”
Besides competitive pricing, Forest River also provides a lifetime warranty on the deck, tubes and chassis, as well as a five-year warranty on all electronic components. “To the customer, that’s a big value,” said Esham.
Action Marine also sells Four Winns boats, adding another option for boaters.
“So we have something for everyone. We have a nice selection for every kind of boater,” said Esham.
Besides the sales department, Action Marine provides full service to its customers through its service department, which provides the customer with hauling, winterization, blocking and winter storage.
“We not only sell our product, but we take care of it too. They never have to see a trailer, people don’t have to worry,” explained Esham.
Winterization and winter storage comes in handy for a large part of their customer base, Esham said, with a majority of their customers spending their summers on the Eastern Shore and their winters in metropolitan areas such as D.C., Baltimore and New York. “Most of our customers have summer homes in the area so they prefer to buy their boats from nearby, where they have access to full service.”
Action Marine closes its doors for three to four weeks in the winter months, allowing for time to revamp and prepare for the upcoming season. By the third week in January, the doors reopen and customers are typically anxious to see what’s new on the floor.
“By the time we reopen, people have cabin fever. They want to come in and see what’s new,” said Esham.
Area boat shows also peak customers interests, particularly the annual Seaside Boat Show in Ocean City.
“We begin to get busy in February, around the time of the Seaside Boat Show. By Easter, we’re full steam,” Esham said.
The busy times vary at Action Marine, but May typically brings in the biggest volume of customers. Trends have changed over the years however, explained Esham.
“Business used to die off after the Fourth of July. Now it’s more evenly distributed through the fall. Now that the fall is warmer, we have an extended season,” she said.
While warmer temperatures in the fall have extended the boating season, Esham also attributes the extended season to a growing population of retirees. “The baby boomers are starting to retire, so we have a larger customer case with kids not returning to school,” she said.
While some reports indicated that gas prices are affecting the boating business, Esham highlighted the election year as a contributing factor.
“It’d hard to say if it’s because it’s an election year or because of gas prices,” she said, noting that the election year typically brings a decline in business.
“If you look at our records from 1984 to now, the only decline you see is in an election year. A new president coming in throws so many uncertainties, so people are more conservative in an election year,” Esham said.
Esham explained that the typical turnover for boaters is seven years, noting several customers who have been with her since 1984 that are on their third or fourth boat from Action Marine.
With summer halfway over, Esham marks the next few weeks as the ideal time for purchasing a boat.
“The second half of summer to fall is the best time to buy a boat, when the dealer is anxious to move inventory and make room to put the new stuff in,” she said.