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MDCE 2012: Demographic trend could boost industry

Four industry giants think the changing demographics in the United States are creating a huge opportunity for the marine industry.

“The demographic trends in the United States don’t really concern us. We see that as an upside for us,” Yamaha Marine Group president Ben Speciale said during a leaders panel at the Marine Dealer Conference & Expo on Wednesday. “Baby boomers are such a huge group of people. Generations X and Y, minorities just create more opportunities to get new people into boating. We just don’t see a big concern because the culture of the U.S. is a boating culture.”

Speciale joined Brunswick Corp. CEO Dustan McCoy, Cobalt Boats CEO and co-owner Paxson St. Clair and GE Capital marine group president Bruce Van Wagoner.

“Republicans lost the election because they didn’t understand demographics,” McCoy said. “We’re a group of middle-aged Caucasians selling products to middle-aged Caucasians and that group is declining.”

The demographic trends are “the greatest opportunity this industry has ever had,” McCoy said. “We’ve got 150 million adults who don’t boat. If we don’t make changes, our industry in America will decline.”

“The one thing people seem to underestimate is that people in this industry did come together for the Grow Boating campaign,” Van Wagoner said. “Was it perfect? No, but I agree with Dusty that one of the biggest opportunities we have through that Grow Boating campaign is to expand opportunities in the marketplace, but we have to do it deliberately. It’s not just going to happen without taking the time and energy.”

“One of the things we need to remember, too, is we are perfectly positioned with a lot of boomers right here and right now,” St. Clair said. “And there are a heck of a lot of opportunities to capitalize on that right here, right now.”

Read more about the leaders panel and the dealer conference in the January issue of Soundings Trade Only.

— Reagan Haynes

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