MIAMI 2015: NMMA president touts industry’s recovery

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MIAMI — “We’re back. The recreational boating industry is back,” NMMA president Thom Dammrich said at today’s marine industry breakfast at the Miami International Boat show.

With growth of new-boat sales estimated at 5 to 6 percent in units and 8 to 9 percent in dollars in 2014 and similar growth projected for 2015, Dammrich delivered an upbeat forecast for the next several years.

He said the economy has grown at an annual rate of 3 percent in each of the last three quarters and that economists predict annual growth of 3 percent during the next three years — all good for growth in retail sales.

Unemployment is 5.7 percent — full employment, some economists say, according to Dammrich.

Disposable income increased at an annual rate of about 2 percent each month in 2014 and finished the year with 3.7 percent in December.

“We can expect disposable income to continue to grow over the next two years,” he said.

Dammrich said consumer spending also has been growing at more than 2 percent annually and that consumer confidence in three of the last four months has been above 90, a figure that historically bodes well for the industry.

“We expect consumer confidence to continue to improve,” he said.

There are clouds on the horizon. The housing market has not recovered from the Great Recession, Dammrich said. There’s still a lot of excess housing stock on the market. And the value of the dollar rose 15 percent last year, creating a headwind for exporters.

Oil prices have given the industry a boost. The cost of a gallon of gas has fallen from $4.05 in July 2008 to $2.01 in early February.

Marine retail sales in 2013 totaled $37 billion, Dammrich said, and he expects the gap between that figure and the all-time pre-recession high of $40 billion to close during the next several years.

“We can expect three years and more of continued growth before we see another downturn,” he predicted.

Risks for the future?

“Weather, but we can’t do anything about that,” and congressional policies that hurt the industry and the consumer, Dammrich said.

He exhorted industry leaders to join the May 11-13 American Boating Congress and visit their congressmen and senators in Washington to advocate for the industry.

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