A good reason to be wrong

U.S. recreational marine market conditions have continued to deteriorate this year.

Today, I picked a copy of Boating Industry’s June issue off my shelf. On the cover was a question: Is this a recovery? And in the cover story, I wrote of the signals we were receiving from many of the 12 dealers we interviewed that suggested market conditions were improving in many geographic pockets throughout North America. I was hopeful that we would see evidence of a recovery this year.

Well, when I came back from maternity leave in September and looked at the numbers, I saw that I was wrong. U.S. recreational marine market conditions have continued to deteriorate this year. In fact, predictions are for double digit declines in boat sales for 2010, compared to 2009.

But when I asked myself how I picked up the wrong signals, the conclusion I reached actually gave me hope for the future.

The dealers we interviewed for the article are all marine retail leaders. And most leading dealers had budgets, business plans and goals in place well before the recession started. They have long tracked their progress on at least a monthly basis, if not weekly or daily. And this allowed them to react quickly to the downturn and adjust their business accordingly.

As a result, many of these dealers have been outperforming the market. In fact, dozens of 2010 Top 100 Dealers reported in their applications that they were experiencing sales growth this year and even more reported improvements in profitability. While I think we all would have liked the boat market to grow this year, that’s a good reason to be wrong, in my estimation. It demonstrates that all the time and energy dealers put into budgeting, business planning and goal setting – and tracking their performance – is paying off.

So, my question for you is, as you create your budgets, business plans and goals for 2011, what forecasts are you making in regards to sales, profitability and market conditions? Will 2011 be the beginning of the recovery? Or are you making your own recovery, regardless of market conditions?


  1. Hello Liz,
    I think you are more right then wrong, so aren’t the dealers you reference.

    Net is it. Gross dollars matter not.
    Where we have held our own in unit sales our gains have come not in increased sales or higher margins, it’s been in cost cutting and creating better efficiency.

    I don’t see a resounding recovery taking place in 2011 although I can see a leveling off.
    If I am wrong however, and the industry continues to decline, the next questions you will be asking of us is; How much deeper can you cut? How much more efficient can you become?

    Life’s a party eh?

    Rob Brown
    Clark Marine
    Manchester, Me.

  2. I visited the Ft. Lauderdale Boat Show this weekend and talking to several of my boat dealer peers there was a big uptick in retail new boats sales not seen for the last three years. I am still watching from the outside looking in, but things are certainly looking better.

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