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U.S. demand for recreational boating products to exceed $13 billion

By The Freedonia Group, Inc.

CLEVELAND, OH  After taking a beating during the economic downturn between 2007 and 2009, sales of recreational boating products are expected to increase 6.1 percent per year to $13.1 billion in 2018, albeit from a reduced 2013 base. Effects of the downturn were harsh and extended beyond the end of the recession because boating products are luxury items. According to analyst Christine Fleig, “The market depends on strong consumer spending as well as reasonable access to credit to both enable boat dealers to purchase inventory and allow consumers to finance such large items.” These and other trends are presented in Recreational Boating, a new study from The Freedonia Group, Inc., a Cleveland-based industry market research firm.

Recreational boating advances will be driven by accelerations in personal consumption expenditures and disposable personal incomes, and by rising spending on recreation and leisure activities. The aging used boat fleet will also aid sales of new boats as more boat owners will be looking to trade up. In order to grow, the industry must also expand the potential customer market by attracting women and minority participants who have been traditionally underrepresented among boat owners. Reaching other demographics is especially crucial as the large “baby boom” generation transitions out of the target age range for boat buying and the generation that follows – “generation X” – is smaller.

Traditional powerboats, the largest boat segment, accounted for 85 percent of boat sales in 2013. Sales in this segment will be boosted by the continuing release of new, more powerful and more efficient engine lines. In some cases, the newer generations of engines have contributed to the versatility of certain types of watercraft, such as pontoons that are powerful enough to pull inner-tubers or skiers. This is important because the boats helping to lead the industry away from its post recession levels will include more versatile craft as consumers seek boats that can fill multiple roles, e.g., as a daytime cruiser or a fishing or sports boat. Sales in the smaller personal watercraft (PWC) segment will be aided by the fact that they are relatively low cost, portable, easy to operate compared to most other types of boats and typically seen as entry-level vessels. In contrast, demand for sailboats will continue to be restrained by the aging of the boating population since these boats are physically demanding to operate.

Item 2008 2013 2018 % Annual Growth 2008-2013 %
Annual Growth 2013-2018
Recreational Boating Product Demand 10057 9700 13050 -0.7 6.1
Boats 6975 5835 8165 -3.5 7.0
Propulsion Systems 2022 1840 2515 -1.9 6.4
Accessories 1060 2025 2370 13.8 3.2

Recreational Boating
(published 09/2014, 377 pages) is available for $5300 from The Freedonia Group, Inc.

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