Every Shop we work with the first question we ask is what makes you different? You would be surprised how many do not know… There are many types of divers and why they dive and where they like to dive is different. Just because they live near you does not mean they dive near you.
Know your Demographics. How many dive shops are within a 2 hour drive of you? Two hours is about as far as people will drive if they have choices. Are your customer mostly tourists and are not likely to return? How do people find out about you? These are all very important questions.
What is the disposable income of the area you are in? This can vary greatly from a blue collar to upper middle class incomes this will greatly affect their spending habits and if price or value is most important to them.
Know your customers. It is important to find out from your customers why they shop there. Some divers like a shop you can go into and is busy there is a Buzz there and they can hang out and meet other divers. Others do not want to wait in lines. Neither is wrong but it is important to know why they come in your doors.
Types of Divers. As you know there is many types of divers and skill levels. Many shops stock gear based on their customer but do not think that they may be attracting clients based on the gear they stock. You can walk into 3 shops in the same metro area and have three different experiences. The first shop the majority of gear will be for local technical diving. They have a huge inventory as well as an eCommerce store. They carry heavy wetsuits and dry suits, back plates and wings and multi gas computers. They also offer Nitrox, Tri-mix and pure O2 fills. They know they cater to local diver’s that dive locally and carter to them. The second shop despite not being in a warm water climate most of their gear is for warm water diving. They stock a large number of shorty’s, BCD’s, regulators and low profile dive computers. This shop plans multiple dive trips a year. They know they are in a high income area were a majority that live in the area have disposable incomes and travel at least once a year. The 3rd shop only carries one or two brands of dive gear but has their own pool. They have multiple instructors and can be very flexible to your schedule. They focus on the service and hand holding at a new diver wants or needs. None of them are wrong but they know their niche and do it well.
All of this goes into what makes you different. Find your niche and be the best in your niche. Once you identify who your divers are, where they like to dive and how often you will be able to make sure you can offer all of the gear and certifications around that niche to retain that customer. If you are not in a warm water area and most of your divers travel you may need to focus more on accessories and certifications.