Maryland trade group discusses ways to lure new boaters

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. — The Marine Trades Association of Maryland focused on “The Scary Graying of the Industry” during a member conference Tuesday, based on a report in in Soundings Trade Only.

American Boat and Yacht Council president John Adey addressed the group on statistics about boaters.

“There’s been a major shift in who’s buying boats,” Adey told the group of about 100. “Boat buyers are aging and that’s reflected in ABYC’s membership. I believe the average age of members is between 63 and 65. It’s a problem all around and we can look at it all together. It’s going to take the industry to work together toward solutions.”

Trade Only associate editor Reagan Haynes also addressed the group about the creative moves some have made in order to address the Millennials, a generation who, though perhaps too young to buy boats today, will be future targets of the industry.

For example, John Dorton at Bryant Boats tapped a design school to create a boat that would appeal to them. Haynes also spoke about some out-of-the-box methods for reaching the increasing Hispanic and Asian demographics in the United States.

A panel discussion on customer service led to some creative ways to engage customers. Speaking to that topic were Nancy Bray, with Hartge Yacht Harbor, Joe Pomerantz with Piney Narrows, Jed Dickman with Herrington Harbor Marinas, Scott Tinkler with Port Annapolis Marina, and Don Reimers with Spring Cove Marina in Solomons.

Bray said simple things, such as planting a vegetable garden and facilitating potlucks, had been hugely popular and economical ways to foster a sense of community at Hartge Yacht Harbor.

“We know docks are cliquey in nature, but when they get to know more people on more piers, and find more in common and have networks of friends, none of your slip holders are going anywhere,” Dickman said. “We try to facilitate those platforms with slip holder parties and meals. Those get expensive, but you can do the same thing in a less expensive way. A keg of beer and an acoustic guy accomplishes the same thing.”


6 comments on “Maryland trade group discusses ways to lure new boaters

  1. wayne mueller

    Using the word lure is probably not a good way to approach potential new buyers. Either as a noun or verb.

  2. Henry

    I would suggest the MTA to look into the marine infrastructure. Many marinas are being sold and turned into waterfront condos. The marine trades staff are graying and finding a good diesel mechanic under 45 is almost impossible.

  3. Chuck Fisher

    The first thing to be done is to convince manufacturers to build entry level boats that younger prospects can afford. Page through almost any boating publication and see the high-priced boats and gadgets being advertised. These items are great, but they are not helping attract new boaters

  4. Thaddeus B Kubis

    Our industry is not the first to suffer this fate. Other recreational industries have addressed this marketing issue and have to a degree opened up the age group. Graying is one of four stages in the marketing cycle and each stage has a defined strategy that needs to be used to counter the graying or add some hair color to the overall marketplace.

  5. Captdavid

    I was lucky. We had a summer cottage on Lake Ontario and my parents always had some kind of boat. A coffee can was our bilge pump and a set of oars our auxiliary power. At this years Miami Boat show Sea Ray introduced a new twin outboard model priced at $500,000 (give or take) and in an interview on TV had the nerve to call it a family boat. I’m curious as to whose family they had in mind? Today small cars can’t tow anything, rack and stack’s are expensive, fuel costs and insurance are out of sight, no wake zones and endless regulations take a lot of fun out of boating. Is it really hard to see why there are so few new boaters coming on line? I’m a licensed captain and sell boats for a living. I see who doesn’t walk in the door.

  6. Shirley

    Our industry needs to work on selling boats to people other than upper class white people. how about the upper class black and hispanic family? We never see them in our brochures. Always White people.
    How about making accessibility to the water better?, more boat ramps? Oh yes, that is expensive waterfront property, that only wealthy white people can buy.
    How about our industry work on building boats for the middle class agian?
    With trailers, and reliable fuel efficient engines? at a price people can afford.
    We need to stop living in a white world. the rest of our population is not white.Nor are they wealthy.

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