Times are rosy in the boating world at present. Sales numbers have been higher in the past, but the marine industry is a leaner, meaner machine than anytime in recent history. While things aren’t perfect, notably the generally dismal weather and the western drought, it’s important to put the present moment in context.
In the “this is good” column, inventories are healthy, dealers aren’t drowning in excess new units, consumer lending has eased, the federal budget deficit is plummeting, mergers and expansions are back on the table, and economic indicators suggest job growth may be set to take off. Obamacare hasn’t devastating small business employment or even tanked small business optimism. Tax policies and environmental regulations do not appear set to gut the industry or close major waterways.
On the dark side of the coin, gas prices aren’t far from historical highs seen after Hurricane Katrina, and getting dangerously close to the psychological barrier of $4/gallon. The rising price of raw materials has impacted boat builder bottom lines, sterndrives are still hurting, future demographics appear genuinely troublesome and many dealerships are having a hard time finding skilled technicians.
You never know when things are headed to hell in a handbasket, but the industry is currently sitting pretty. Dealers are making money, sales growth has returned to nearly all boat categories, and innovation has dramatically transformed the latest crop of boats, with more dramatic advancements coming soon. Russia even seems to be cooling its recent bluster.
This optimistic sentiment came from reading an article that fondly looked back at the 1990’s. It humorously recalled that one of our biggest fears at the time was the northward march of killer bees. Nobody likes a sting of death, but worrying about murderous honeybees seems quite silly in retrospect.
It’s not always easy to know when times are good. Sales could always be better, and have you heard about Middle East Respiratory Syndrome? This could be the one that gets us all.
That said, unless you work for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the best preventative measure is to enjoy this summer season to the fullest. Taking a wide-eyed look at our current moment in time, there’s nothing on the horizon that appears unsolvable by the collective organizing, innovation and education of the marine industry.