What a retailer wants is STOCK TURN. When you offer to buy something that they don't have in stock, they suddenly are facing making a profit with almost zero investment.
Well, not really. If you order a bunch of boats from Hobie, the price per boat goes down, as does the shipping price.
The retail price includes a modest dealer markup, which obviously gets better and better for the dealer if more boats are ordered. It does not include any allowance for getting the boat to the dealership, nor for unpacking and assembly.
Basically, if you order one boat and do not charge anything for the shipping and setup, you make little or no money on the boat. Stock turn without profit is spinning wheels.
BTW, this is standard practice in the boat industry. We charge freight and setup on Precisions, Com-Pacs, and Ranger Tugs, and we did charge it on Catalinas and MacGregors when we sold those lines. In all cases, the retail markup includes no allowance for freight and setup. It costs a lot of money to get a MacGregor from the factory in California to our shop in Florida and set it up. If we don't charge for that, we can't stay in that business. We charged a LOT for that, and just covered costs. To get a new Precision, I drive up the road for an hour and tow it back. Doesn't cost much, but isn't free. Our shop riggers, who are also not free, then have to assemble the boat. We charge a little money for all that, and basically cover costs.
There's a reason we are the only sailboat dealership in SW Florida. It's not hugely profitable, and is just done by people who love boats. If we don't charge for shipping, it's not profitable at all.
As for getting Hobies out on the water as a sales tactic, let me share my sad experience. We have taken the AI's to a large local kayak festival, to the local town "block" party, to boat shows, and to many events such as the 4th of July Freedom Swim across the harbor, exposing them to thousands of interested people. My wife and I sail our boats at least a couple of times a week. Almost every time, some interested person talks to us about the boats and asks for my business card. On the web, we are the top two google results if you search Hobie Adventure Island FL. Our site has my two youtube movies, with a combined 15,000 views. On Sunday, we sailed down to the meeting of the Port Charlotte kayak club, where I was showing off in front of about 40 kayaks. As usual, an interested customer was snapping pictures, asking questions, and got my card.
Apart from boats sold to my wife and myself and one kind of "captive" customer who just can't stop himself from buying stuff from us, we have sold one Adventure Island at Gulf Island Sails. One. I personally have sold zero. Zero point zero. I don't understand it. People love the boat, don't mind the price, and just don't buy it around here. Unless this turns around, we will soon drop the line. I feel terrible, because taking on Hobie was my idea, and it has cost the owners money.
Sorry for the long, rambling post. Just thought you guys might like to hear from the other side of the fence.