Before the internet reshaped the way Americans shop, the buying process looked pretty similar for thousands of years. The consumer would go a store, hold the item in his/her hands, and make a decision on the quality and price of the product. Today, that process stills exists, but the increasing popularity of online shopping is changing the way people seek value. Everything needs to be compared and researched, rather than simply inspected. This perpetual state of TMI could be viewed as a negative side-effect of the changing of the times, but I like to view it as a positive. No matter where you live, you can buy top-quality products and feel confident in the decisions that you make. This positive outcome of the internet age has never been more prevalent as in the boat cover industry.
Cheap labor in foreign countries and an economic recession radically shifted the market back in the late 2000’s. Low-quality boat covers flooded the market, driving hundreds of “old-fashioned” American companies out of business. The way that the average American boater took care of his/her boat shifted in just a few years. It used to be that a boater would buy one quality cover and expect it to last five to ten years (at least!). Lately, that same boater is buying a new cover every one or two years, and simply eating the costs. As the quality of these cheap, low ounce-weight continues to drop and the economy continues to pick up, we’ve seen a shift back to the old way of doing things. This momentary lapse in the industry wasn’t entirely bad, because now only the strongest and highest-quality companies remain, and have competitive prices to boot.
This leads me to my point (finally). The internet is a heck of a tool, so use it, but keep in mind the old way of doing things. Look into more than just price, and try to find the quality that you would look for if you had the product in your hands. Research the company. Have they been around awhile? Do they have a solid reputation? Do you like what they stand for? Ask questions. The best companies are always more than happy to take a phone call and talk about their products. Dig a little deeper. It’s your investment, it’s your boat. You might as well take a few extra minutes and make a great decision.