Industry needs to change perception, says Dammrich

MIAMI, Fla. — Despite what NMMA President Thom Dammrich referred to as the "perfect storm for boating" this past year in which the drop in sales has been faster and deeper than anticipated, his State of the Industry speech at the Miami International Boat Show yesterday wasn't all doom and gloom.

Dammrich did acknowledge that total consumer spending on boating may have slipped under $30 billion for the first time in 2008, a low last seen in 2001 and which compares to a total of nearly $40 billion in 2006. Attendance at NMMA boat shows is down 10 to 20 percent, he noted.

However, Dammrich also pointed out that participation in boating was likely to be up for the second year in a row in 2008.

"People still want to go boating and buy boats," he stated.

And he believes that desire to buy is creating pent-up demand, which will help the industry bounce back once the economy rebounds. Dammrich predicted that the current conditions are likely to hit bottom in the third quarter, making most if not all of 2009 a difficult year, but with an improving environment for the boating industry ahead.

Among the challenges Dammrich posed to the audience was the need to promote the affordability of boating, which he described as a solidly middle class activity that employs middle class workers. To support that, he reminded them that 75 percent of boat owners have a household income under $100,000. By changing that perception, the boating industry will be better able to secure legislator's support in facing the challenges of today's market conditions.

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He also suggested the industry promote boating safety, target minorities and consider social networking as a marketing tool.

All of these things can be tools for the industry to prepare for what Dammrich described as a bright future in his concluding remarks. With the population growth anticipated in the next 40 years, if boating is able to attract the same percentage of that population in the future, it will be able to add 50 million new boaters over that period of time, he stated.

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