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2013 predictions: ‘Fiscal cliff’ or modest growth?

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So just what will 2013 hold for the marine industry?

During the next several weeks we will be pushing out in print, on the Web and digitally the predictions of 22 leaders who represent a broad swath of our industry. There is common ground and there are differences, as you’d expect from such a large group of prognosticators.

The so-called “fiscal cliff” casts a shadow in a number of the forecasts.

Although many economists believe that failing to resolve the $600 billion in tax hikes and spending cuts will send us back into recession, most anticipate that some sort of agreement will be reached, if not before the end of 2012, then sometime in January.

The rancor and uncertainty are already having an impact. In early December the preliminary consumer sentiment index from Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan declined sharply to 74.5, the lowest level in four months. The November figure of 82.7, by contrast, had been the highest in 4-1/2 years.

Part of the reason for the steep decline was concern about whether an agreement to avoid the automatic tax hikes and spending cuts will be worked out sooner rather than later.

Here’s a short preview of 2013 from three of our forecasters:

Mount Dora Boating Center & Marina owner Joe Lewis expects modest growth in 2013 for those who offer superior value and exceptional customer service. “We’ll need to continue to work hard for every sale, regardless of whether it’s a boat, added service work on a repair ticket or a new storage customer,” he says.

Social media expert Gaspare Marturano says new smart phone apps that enhance the boating experience will become more of a focus this year. “Better smart phone applications will improve the live boat show experience, and new exciting virtual boating games will encourage the younger generation,” he says.

NMMA president Thom Dammrich says the industry will have to attract a younger and more diverse audience if it is going to get back to selling 300,000 new boats a year (143,000 were sold in 2011). “We must offer innovative, smart, fun, high-quality boats, gear and engines to keep existing boaters interested and attract new boaters,” he says.

We’d all like to see less partisan politics and more cooperation this year, but that’s more a wish than a prediction.

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