If you liked 2014, you'll like next year, too.
That seems to be the general consensus when it comes to the overall economy generally as well as the boating industry specifically.
"That's the way it's shaping up," said Peter Houseworth, director of client services for Info-Link. "Generally speaking, the economy's healthy, employment's looking better. All those things are putting wind at our back, at least in the short term."
(Be sure to check out the January issue of Boating Industry to see more of the industry forecast.)
New boat sales were up 9.4 percent year-over-year through September to 210,200 units, according to Info-Link, the third year in a row of sales gains, following a 7.7 percent gain in 2012 and 5.3 percent in 2013. The National Marine Manufacturers Association is projecting that new boat sales will be up at least 8 percent in 2014 from 2013 when all is said and done, said NMMA President Thom Dammrich.
Boating Industry readers are certainly feeling that confidence in the market as well. In our reader survey – conducted in November 2014 – 67 percent of respondents said their revenue was up in 2014 versus 2013. More than 40 percent said business was up more than 10 percent from 2013. Only 16 percent reported a decrease in revenue last year.
Those numbers were consistent across all business types in the survey from dealers to manufacturers to service providers, distributors and others. The results were slightly better than 2013, when 63 percent of respondents said their revenue was up from 2012.
The one exception to the growth in new boat sales in 2014 was once again the sterndrive segment. Sales there were down 8.8 percent year-over-year through September to 13,599 units sold nationwide.
"That consumer is just not showing up," Houseworth said. "That's normally the first-time buyer, general recreation, that drives that market and it's still just being challenged."
Outboard sales continue to be strong, with 137,271 units sold through September on a rolling 12-month basis, a 7.6 percent increase year-over-year. Inboard sales were up 11.8 percent as the ski market continues its gains.
Particularly strong this year, though, has been the PWC segment, with sales jumping 21.4 percent this year through September, with 46,923 units being sold over the previous 12 months. There are two major factors driving that increase, Houseworth said. One is the higher scrap rate of PWC -- they don't last as long as boats and are often cheaper to replace than make major repairs. Secondly, BRP's Sea-Doo Spark also made a major impact on the market this year, both in direct sales and its large marketing campaign that raised awareness of the entire category.
"The Spark from BRP did very well," Houseworth said. "It hit a sweet spot, with a high attraction of first-timers and more ... female buyers."
It appears most in the industry are confident about their potential for growth in 2015 as well.
Eighty-four percent of Boating Industry readers expect their revenue to be up in 2015 compared to 2014 – with 43 percent calling for growth of more than 10 percent. Only 5 percent expect their business to be down this year.
"We don't see anything ... that looks like it's changing," Houseworth said. "We'll finish the year at about 10 percent up for the year, and that's probably what we're going to see next year."
Dammrich said he would "conservatively estimate" about 5 percent growth for 2015.
In his conversations with NMMA members, Dammrich also hears an optimistic tone.
“You talk to individual boat builders, they’re projecting to be up 10, 12, 15 percent next year,” he said. “Some of them will be, but they won’t all be and the industry won’t be.”