Boating sales recover from recession

Interest in boating has picked up months before the spring thaw.

Dealerships and industry experts say the steep decline in boat sales during the recession has reversed, with business inching back to more normal levels.

New powerboat sales were up 10 percent in 2012, the industry’s first sign of recovery, and this year powerboat sales are expected to be up another 5 percent to 7 percent, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

“The housing market has improved, consumer confidence has steadily increased the last two years, and spending is on the rise. All of those are factors that are helping to fuel stable growth for the U.S. recreational boating industry,” Thom Dammrich, the group’s president, said in a statement.

If the economy continues to improve, boating ought to have sustained growth this year and into 2015 and 2016, according to Dammrich.

Leading the industry’s growth are small fiberglass and aluminum outboard boats 26 feet or less in size, which continued their upward climb in 2013 with a 6.7 percent increase in the number of boats sold. Ski and wakeboard boats also did well, with sales up 11.7 percent.

January is one of the strongest months for boat sales as manufacturers and dealerships offer incentives at shows where they hope to land early business and gauge consumer sentiment for the rest of the year. Many of those buyers will take delivery in the spring.

Buyers come to the shows armed with hours of research they’ve done on the Internet, which can expedite their buying decisions, said Mark Gaska, with M-W Marine in Hales Corners, Wis.

“We had a 2014 preview show in December where more than 300 people came on a Saturday. Considering it was a day when they could have been Christmas shopping, that was remarkable,” Gaska said.

Some of the manufacturers offer several thousand dollars in incentives to buy a boat in January and take delivery of it later.

The shows also help dealerships generate customer leads, said Charles Plueddeman, a freelance writer from Fond du Lac, Wis., who has covered the marine industry for many years.

“People are out snowmobiling now, so not everybody is thinking about buying a boat until it gets closer to spring. But as February drags on, and the weight of winter is bearing down on everybody’s shoulders, it’s fun to attend the boat shows and imagine it’s July on Okauchee Lake,” Plueddeman said.

The boating industry was decimated by the recession, largely because sales depend on access to credit, including home equity loans.

“Nobody is predicting a big, sudden surge in demand for boats. I think they’re looking at slow, steady gains,” Plueddeman said.

Last spring, a shortage of late-model used boats sent prices higher and dealerships sought trade-ins to augment their inventory. In some cases, people paid roughly 25 percent above the suggested retail price for a used boat that was only a few years old and was in very good shape, according to dealerships, and sellers were getting up to 50 percent more from selling a boat on their own compared with accepting the trade-in value.

This year, manufacturers have boosted production. There will be more new boats available, according to the Boat Owners Association of the United States.

“We think dealerships will be interested in making some deals this winter, and combined with continued low interest rates, it bodes well for buyers,” Charm Addington, the association’s vice president of finance, said in a statement.

To get a boat loan, most lenders require two years of federal tax returns, a paycheck stub, and proof of funds for the down payment, according to Addington.

“The heady days of ‘no documentation’ loans are largely a thing of the past,” she said.

More in Herald Business Journal

Health-care consumers need to take the lead, so get smart

David Russian, CEO of Western Washington Medical Group, writes our third essay about fixing health care.

Robots on Wall Street: Slow-footed regulators lose ground

Watchdogs have to figure out how to check computers running lightening-fast algorithms.

More business, more competition for Everett kidney dialysis center

Nonprofit Puget Sound Kidney Centers sees large for-profit competitors enter state market.

Molina Medical holds fall carnival for families in Everett

Molina Medical is hosting a free event for families in the Everett… Continue reading

Leadership Snohomish County celebrates 20 years of service

Leadership Snohomish County is celebrating its 20th anniversary. The organization was launched… Continue reading

Snohomish, Monroe manufacturers honored for innovation, excellence

Two Snohomish County companies have been honored with Manufacturing Excellence awards at… Continue reading

Remodeled home tours planned this weekend

This weekend, Edmonds-based Chermak Construction will participate in the 2017 Remodeled Homes… Continue reading

Barron Heating to celebrate anniversary at Marysville showroom

Barron Heating and Air Conditioning is celebrating its 45th anniversary from 10… Continue reading

US budget deficit hits $666B, an $80B spike for the year

The deficit issue has largely fallen in prominence in Washington in recent years.

Most Read