We certainly have our challenges in the boating industry from an aging customer base to increased competition for the leisure dollar. But here are five reasons to be optimistic about boating in 2014 and beyond.
- A rebounding housing market. 2013 will shape up to be the best for home sales and starts since before the crash. We’ve also seen nice price increases in many markets. Although expected to slow this year as inventory reaches more normal levels, those increases will help make more money available. It’s also going to allow those Baby Boomers to sell their homes and downsize (and maybe pick up a boat for the driveway).
- Rising employment. Unemployment has dropped to around 7 percent. While still high, the trend is clearly down. While jobs aren’t being added as quickly as we’d like to see, people aren’t losing jobs either, for the most part. As a side note, don’t be fooled by what will probably be a drop in the unemployment rate in the next couple of months. With Congress’s decision not to renew benefits for the long-term unemployed, many of those people will drop out of the official labor force, pushing down the rate.
- Increased consumer confidence. Points No. 2 and 3 are helping here. Except for some minor hiccups when Washington gets more dysfunctional than usual, the major consumer confidence indices are all showing positive increases. A boat is not a necessity, so we need people feeling good about their financial situation if they’re going to spend.
- Industry efforts. There are some great initiatives underway to try to bring more people to the water. As I’ve written about before, the folks at the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation are cranking up their efforts this year to attract more Hispanics to the sport. At the same time, the Recreational Boating Leadership Council that spun off of the 2011 Growth Summit is working to develop plans to attract youth to the water and increase diversity. Grow Boating also continues its great work marketing boating.
- New products. We’ve been getting inundated over the last few months with new boats, new engines, new features, etc., etc. After years of entrenchment and focusing on survival, manufacturers are getting back in the game, Exciting, new product is what drives sales to new boaters and convinces the serious boater to buy again.