The boating industry is experiencing a Golden Age. Trade war and tariffs aside, economic factors including an increase in GDP, improving housing market, strong consumer confidence, and growing disposable income are spurring domestic demand for new boats. As a result, capital spending and manufacturer optimism are at record highs, creating one of the strongest periods for our industry.
In 2017, unit sales of new powerboats increased 5 percent in 2017, reaching 262,000, the highest levels the U.S. recreational boating industry has seen in 10 years. Total marine expenditures were also at an all-time high in 2017 at $39 billion (spending on new boats, engines, trailers, accessories and services), up 7 percent from 2016.
Boat manufacturers are expanding capacity to meet this demand – building new plants and increasing production; supporting recent data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis that U.S. manufacturing gross output increased to $6.228 Trillion in the fourth quarter of 2017.
In short, life is good for recreational boating! So, what’s next? These are good times now and for the next year or two, but what will our industry look like in twenty years? We are on the verge of a quantum shift.
The boating population is aging out. The average age of a boat owner in 2017 was 56, compared to 49 in 1997 (source: Info-Link). How do we attract a new generation of loyal new boaters, and in the numbers to replace those aging out?
U.S. demographics are shifting. The great majority of boat owners are Caucasian (source: QSA). How do we attract a wider demographic range of boaters?
The rate of attrition is increasing. 54% of first time boat buyers will drop out of boating, compared to 38% of repeat buyers (source: Info-Link). How do we keep current boaters boating for a lifetime, and ultimately have them pass along the tradition and love to future generations?
We need a longer term focus to ensure a healthy industry and strong boating population in the future.
A few thought starters heading into IBEX:
- Building a pipeline of future customer is as important as the next sale today or this week.
- Focus on creating experiences.
- Sales is not marketing. Make marketing a priority, with a focus on digital and interactive marketing.
- Focus on new markets (minorities and the young).
- New customer recruitment should be a top priority.
- Offer products affordable to a mass segment that is priced out of new boats today.
- Get involved politically at the state and federal level—attend ABC every year!
- Focus on sustainability, important to the customer of the future.
See you in October!
Thom Dammrich, NMMA President
*NMMA President Thom Dammrich will be giving a state of the industry address during IBEX’s annual Industry Breakfast. For tickets and to register, click here.