We’re headed in the right direction, aren’t we?

When the Boating Industry team recently got into a conversation about how the industry is performing so far this year, there were some varying opinions. It turns out that we were each looking at the data to which we have access – from Spader Business Management and Info-Link Technologies Inc. – a little differently. Here are the conclusions we reached.

First of all, both Spader, which tracks dealer financials, and Info-Link, which tracks boat registration data, are reporting that boat sales so far this year are trending lower than they were at the same time last year. In other words, if you were to create a unit sales or dollar sales graph of the past several years, the line would still be pointed downward.

For the two months ending February 2010, new boat sales were down by 21.4 percent, when compared to the same period in 2009, and total dealership sales were down by 10.5 percent, according to Spader (Click here to read the entire article.) Info-Link’s Bellwether Report, updated through February, suggests that unit sales of powerboats 15 feet in length and above were down about 27 percent during the 12-month period ended Feb. 28, compared to the previous 12-month period (Click here to read the entire article.)

That data suggests that we haven’t hit bottom yet and seems to fly in the face of the optimism that is pervading the marine industry this spring, which I’ll admit I’ve been caught up in. Are we foolish to feel optimistic when boat sales continue to drop?

I don’t think so. The data also shows that boat sales have been down by less each of the past several months. In fact, the graph Info-Link posts on its Web site – http://www.info-link.com/bellwetherreport.asp – tracks the rolling 12-month year-over-year percent change in unit sales, and it suggests that we hit bottom in terms of the rate of decline somewhere around June of last year. In other words, the gap between the past 12 months and the 12 months before that was at its largest in June – at around 33 percent – and has been shrinking ever since.

As Spader Business Management put it in the company’s February report, released today, “… we are seeing progress in the positive direction.” Not only is the decline in boat sales lessening, dealer inventories have largely been cleaned of aging units, which has allowed boat builders – and their suppliers – to ramp up production. Here at Boating Industry, we’ve begun to see evidence that many leading dealers’ boat sales are already on the rebound. Because they adjusted to the downturn quickly and strategically, they’ve found themselves in a position to take advantage of consumers’ new-found positive outlook this year – and they are seeing the results.

We’d like to hear from you on your expectations for the season ahead. What activity are you seeing in your local market this spring? What indicators are you using to help you plan for the summer?

One comment

  1. Liz – Peter Houseworth has hit the nail-on-the-head.
    Most of my marine industry contacts indicate a less positive perspective. Some of my inland lake fishing and smaller family recreation contacts are seeing a little light, but the cruising market is not. Contrary to the last paragraph in your article from the Spader, used inventories are at all time highs, dealers have “new” inventory from 2009 and manufactures of their major brands are not “ramping up production.” Few if any cruisers are “moving up” to a new model when they can still virtually steal slightly used vessels for savings in the 60% plus range. Some do have an increase in sales over comparative periods from a yer ago, but when you were near nothing, it does not take much to have an increase and the dollar value per unit comparison is most revealing and not in an exciting fashion. Only the most insightful and those willing to make significant changes to generate vital cash to sustain themselves are going to survive this period.

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