Though the current state of the marine industry is difficult, there are reasons to believe things will begin to turn around later this year, Thom Dammrich, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association, said at his annual State of the Industry report at the recent Miami International Boat Show.
“The first half of 2009 will continue to be challenging, but by the third quarter we should begin to see an improving environment for the boating industry,” he said.
“Though current economic conditions are depressing consumers’ buying at the moment, dealers tell us there is significant pent-up demand among consumers attending boat shows,” Dammrich added.
Preliminary figures for 2008 show that the industry had sales of less than $30 billion, “a total last seen in 2001,” Dammrich said. By comparison, the industry reported sales of about $37.5 billion in 2007/
But, he added, in the next year credit should begin flowing again for retail and wholesale, the housing market should begin to stabilize and consumer confidence will improve once those two things happen.
The NMMA is taking steps to help move this process along, Dammrich said. For example, the association is working to promote greater credit union lending for new boat purchases, and officials have met with national credit union leaders to talk about initiating a pilot program.
And though boat sales were down 28 percent in units and 25 percent in dollar sales in 2008, it’s anticipated that participation rates grew by 1 percent.
Boating, Dammrich said, needs to be promoted as a pastime that can be enjoyed by the whole family, and not just a hobby for the wealthiest Americans. More than 70 percent of boat owners, he said, have a household income of less than $100,000 per year.
The industry needs to make boating attractive and available to everyone. He urged business owners to use social networking tools, such as Facebook or Twitter, to connect with consumers and market themselves.
“We cannot lose sight of the fact that the work we do in this industry improves the quality of life of boaters, of the American public,” Dammrich said. “We cannot lose sight of the fact that boating remains the best way to spend quality time with family and friends, the best way to enjoy the outdoors or go fishing, and the best way to relax and get away from all of our stresses on land.
“Boating is not going away,” he added. “I believe it will be back as big as ever.”
Source: Soundings Trade Only