Looking across the boat yard at WakeSide Marine on the north side of Elkhart, Ind., owner Jeff Haradine saw blue skies and sunshine both in the view outside the window and on his balance sheet.
The pontoon and sports boat dealership on S.R. 19, near Simonton Lake, has compiled a healthy increase in sales over the past year. Banks are lending to consumers who are comfortable with their finances and have decided they can afford to go boating, The Elkhart Truth reported.
“I’m having a hard time seeing the economy as bad as people say it is,” Haradine said.
WakeSide reflects the upward trends being posted in the boating industry as a whole, including pontoon makers in Elkhart County. Thom Dammrich, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association, noted 2011 was the first year the industry recorded an increase in sales since 2006. In addition, he expects retail activity to continue to grow in 2012 between 4% and 5%.
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Boat inventory is leaving showroom floors twice as fast today as it did a couple of years ago.
Sounding Trades Only reported that Bruce Van Wagoner, president of GE Capital’s commercial marine lending group, delivered that message during an address on the state of the marine industry via podcast last week with National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) president Thom Dammrich.
“That’s a very promising indicator,” Matt Gruhn, president of the Marine Retailers Association of America, told Soundings Trade Only. “We’ve traditionally been known as a two-turn industry, but I think it’s really a little less than two turns, so for us to be up and over that, it means we’re managing our inventory better.”
Inventory more than a year old is at a historic low of 13%, compared with 47% at the recession’s peak, Van Wagoner said in the podcast.
The decision to buy a boat can still be impulsive if consumers see what they want, Dammrich pointed out. That’s why “dealers really need to make sure they have adequate inventory levels,” Van Wagoner said.
“The dealer’s risking losing a sale to a spontaneous buyer if what that person’s looking for is not in stock or if they don’t see a range of choices,” Van Wagoner said. Inventory is one-third less than it was at its peak, he said.
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Although recent economic discussions have centered on Europe’s woes and the possibility of a double-dip recession in the U.S., reports have been springing up nationwide about an increase in boat sales.
Soundings Trade Only reported that in the Midwest, where the economy has been slow for the last four years, reports have shown a strong spring for boat dealers.
On Sunday, a Toledo (Ohio) Blade story was headlined “Pent-up boat demand fueling increased sales.”
“We’re definitely seeing more sales this year — pontoons, Jet Skis, runabouts — both new and used,” Chris Rising, sales director at Devil’s Lake Water Sports in Manitou Beach, Mich., told the newspaper.
Jeff Covey, general manager of the 300-slip Great Lakes Marina in Muskegon, Mich., told Crain’s Detroit Business that after a brisk Memorial Day weekend, he anticipates the best summer he has seen in at least five years.
Steve Sloan, owner of Madisonville Marine in Tennessee, told the Knoxville News Sentinel that his sales were up 25% during the past 11 months.
Jim Meyer, owner of Main Marine & Ski in Racine, Wis., told the Wisconsin Journal Sentinel that this has been the strongest start to the boating season since 2007.
Although many cautioned that the sales should be kept in perspective because they were down 50% from pre-2008 levels, the anecdotal proof supported numbers from the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), which showed fiberglass boat sales increasing modestly for the first time since 2008.
The National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) today (May 17) announced that in 2011 U.S. retail sales for recreational boats, accessories and marine services increased 6% to $32.3 billion, new power and sail boat retail sales increased 0.8% to 214,405, and boating participation increased 10% to 83 million.
The recreational boating industry has not seen an increase in retail sales since 2006, and the jump in participation is the largest proportion of adults (34.8%) who went boating since 1997, when 35.8% participated.
Released today, the NMMA’s annual Recreational Boating Statistical Abstract is the U.S. recreational boating industry’s most comprehensive compilation of statistics and research. The new data signals the beginning of a recovery for the U.S. recreational boating industry.
“Pent-up demand for boats following years of diminished willingness to spend by consumers, improved credit availability for buyers and boating businesses, positive shifts in consumer confidence and an overall interest in the benefits of the boating lifestyle are steering the industry toward recovery,” notes Thom Dammrich, NMMA president. “Americans’ passion for enjoying the boating lifestyle is taking precedent as they put aside concerns about the economy in favor of creating lifelong memories with loved ones.”
Anticipating what 2012 will bring the NMMA Abstract points toward continued slow growth: A survey, in conjunction with Foresight Research, of 3,100 boaters and non-boaters from December 2011 shows an estimated 15.2% of the 237.7 million adults living in the U.S. are actively engaged in shopping/planning to purchase a boat in 2012. This is an increase from 10% in 2010.
• Boating has an estimated annual economic impact of $72 billion.
• Eighty-three million Americans participated in boating in 2011, an increase of ten percent from 2010 (75 million) and the largest proportion of adults (34.8%) who went boating since 1997 (35.8%).
• Retail sales of boats, accessories and marine services increased six percent to $32.3 billion in 2011.
• Power and sail boat unit sales increased 0.8% to 214,405 in 2011 from 212,645 the previous year.
• An estimated 83% of boats sold in the U.S. in 2011 were made in the U.S.
• 83% of boat owners in the U.S. in 2011 had an annual household income less than $100,000.
Led by double-digit increases in aluminum fishing and pontoon boats, the recreational boating industry continued in March to build on a strong February start to the spring selling season.
Soundings Trade Only reported that sales in the industry’s main powerboat segments rose 7.6% for the month, to 8,345 boats, from March 2011, according to figures compiled by Aarn Rosen, national sales manager at Statistical Surveys Inc.
The main segments comprise the two aluminum categories, plus five groups of fiberglass boats that range from 11 to 99 feet. Sales across the industry rose 6.8% to 12,367 boats.
The gains weren’t nearly as eye-popping as they were in February, when sales rose 29% in the main segments and 28% industrywide, but Rosen said he considers the gains in March to be “more in line with a realistic growth rate.”
March sales represent 11.4% to 12.6% of the year’s retail activity. Smaller boats sold well during the month, “certainly a good sign going into the primary boating season,” Rosen said.
April through July are the industry’s highest-volume months.
To read the entire report in Soundings Trade Only click here.