Nearly 80 percent of the marine industry expects to see their sales grow by 5 to 10 percent, according to a new survey released Wednesday by GE Capital, Commercial Distribution Finance.
That's up from 54 percent who felt the same in 2014 and 43 percent in 2013. The survey was conducted earlier this month at GE's Industry Leadership Conference, held in conjunction with the National Marine Manufacturers Association at the Miami International Boat Show. Although that means the results were influenced by the strong Florida market, it still reflects the optimism of the entire industry, Bruce Van Wagoner, president of CDF's marine group, told Boating Industry.
"It doesn’t surprise me that the results were that much more positive than they’ve been in the past," he said. "And I think we’re multiple years into the ongoing improving marine market, so the longer you’re a part of an ongoing success, the more confidence you gain. An 80 percent number saying things are going to be up 5 to 10 percent, that’s probably what I expected to hear because people have gained confidence having experienced that now for a few years in a row."
The survey results are right in line with GE Capital's outlook for the market, with the company forecasting 5 to 6 percent growth in units and 8 to 9 percent in retail sales for the year.
The industry also plans to invest in its people and facilities, according to the survey, with 84 percent of respondents planning to increase their workforce this year and 78 percent expecting their company to increase capital expenditures from 2014.
"We interact with many of the manufacturers in the industry and what we’re hearing are the same types of things," Van Wagoner said. "They’re increasing their ability to produce to meet the market demand. I don’t know that we’re hearing it so aggressively that people are opening a whole bunch of factories, but we did hear a couple of them that were opening a new part of their factory or expanding it to some degree."
Most survey respondents are confident the industry's recovery will continue. Half said they expect the recovery to continue for the next two to three years, while another 28 percent think it will continue three to four years.
Dealers and manufacturers are working together better than they have in the past, and being more careful about managing inventory levels, turns and distribution, Van Wagoner said.
"We don’t see manufacturers running out and signing up a whole bunch of new dealers to take advantage of some optimism, but rather doing what they need to do to help their current distribution take advantage of the opportunity," he said.