Dealer index shows boost in confidence in February

Posted on Written by Jack Atzinger
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Recreational marine dealer sentiment improved in February and a larger percentage of businesses surveyed in the MRAA/Baird Marine Retailer Pulse Report said they had higher new-boat retail sales than the companies that responded in January.

The MRAA/Baird Marine Retailer Sentiment Index rose from 79 in January to 81 in February, matching its all-time monthly high, and is up 10 points from a reading of 71 in February last year.

The index’s three- to five-year outlook declined modestly, from 82 in January to 79 in February, but it was well above its reading of 69 in February of 2016.

Soundings Trade Only joined the partnership with Baird and the MRAA in February and will continue to participate in the distribution of the survey and the reporting of its results in future months.

The MRAA/Baird Retailer Pulse Report is more than three years old. It began in December of 2013.

Marine Retailers Association of the Americas president Matt Gruhn was pleased but not surprised to see the sentiment index rise.

“The market conditions are strong,” he said. “Boat shows have been doing well. New-boat retail trends are the highest we’ve seen.”

Gruhn said the overall report shows that “we’re starting off the year on the right foot. We’re headed in the right direction.”

Seventy-seven dealers were surveyed in February. Baird said the respondents reported healthy demand and solid boat show activity, “with a number reporting their best shows in decades.”

“We expect wealth creation among affluent consumers and potential tax policy changes to create more discretionary income, fueling continued industry growth in 2017,” Baird said.

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Eighty percent of the retailers surveyed reported new-boat sales growth in February, which was up from 60 percent in January and a record-high percentage of dealers reporting positive retail sales trends. Although only about 4 percent of new-boat sales occur in February, “our checks suggest that U.S. demand for powerboats remains very healthy early in the season,” Baird said.

Fifty-eight percent of the dealers reported increases in used-boat sales in February, compared with 39 percent in the January survey.

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Surveyed dealers indicated that results at recent boat shows have been slightly below 2016 levels. Sixty-six percent of retailers indicated that boat show results were “good” this year, compared with just 16 percent that said they were “bad.”

“A number of retailers also indicated near-record results,” Baird said. “One retailer characterized the 2017 boat show season as ‘best boat show results ever,’ while another indicated that “it was the biggest show we’ve had in at least the last 20 years.’ ”

Baird said retailers reported that new-boat inventory “improved sequentially and remained well below inventory levels last year.” Thirty-three percent believe inventory is too low, and the same percentage think it is too high.

“Net, we consider inventory to be within a ‘normal’ range, though dealer commentary suggests some difficulty obtaining inventory in hot product lines (especially among pontoon brands),” Baird said.

Used inventory remains lean. Sixty-eight percent of retailers report that inventory is “too low,” compared with 8 percent that consider it “too high.”

“We continue to believe a limited supply of used inventory will eventually lead consumers to consider new-boat purchases,” Baird said.

Click here for a link to the full survey results. In future months, access to the full results will be limited to the companies that participated in the survey.

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