US demand to be driven by economic recovery
The recreational boating industry, which includes boats, separately sold propulsion systems, and related accessories, is recovering from the economic downturn, which began in 2007 and lasted until mid-2009. The effects were harsh and extended beyond the end of the recession because boating products are luxury items. The market depends on strong consumer spending as well as reasonable access to credit to both enable boat dealers to acquire inventory and allow consumers to finance boat purchases. In the years since the downturn, credit has begun to loosen, allowing for an influx in boat sales as purchasers relieve pent-up demand.
By 2018, recreational boat demand will exceed 2013 levels, but will not yet achieve pre-recession levels of demand. Advances in the recreational boating market will be stimulated by the continued economic recovery manifesting in accelerations in personal consumption expenditures and disposable personal incomes, and rising spending on recreation and leisure. 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 further, 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 is smaller.
More versatile power boats among fastest growing types
In 2013, demand continued to reflect a recovery from the depths plumbed in 2010, although still remaining well below pre-recession levels. The dominant boat segment will remain the traditional powerboat, which will see demand rising as manufacturers continue to release more powerful and more efficient engine lines. The boats helping to lead the industry away from its prior recessed levels will include more versatile craft as consumers seek a boat that can fill multiple roles. In some cases, the newer generations of engines have contributed to the versatility of certain types. For instance, pontoons, which have been historically known as floating patios, are increasingly available in versions powerful enough to pull tubers or skiers.
PWC to benefit from entry-level market position
Sales of personal watercraft (PWC) will be aided by the fact that they are relatively low cost, portable, and easy to operate compared to most other types of boats. Typically seen as entry-level vessels that enable users to become familiar with boating activities, PWC can eventually stimulate consumer interest in trading up to a larger marine vessel. In contrast, demand for sailboats will continue to be hampered by the aging population since these boats are more physically demanding to operate.
South & West are key boating markets
Among the four US census regions, the South and the West are the largest and fastest growing regional markets for boating products. In addition to demographic and economic factors driving sales, both regions benefit from a generally mild climate, long coastlines, a large number of inland waterways, and relatively high participation rates in boating and fishing activities.