Marine dealer sentiment shot to their highest levels since 2018, with the outlook on current conditions measuring 76, versus 19 in April, according to a new survey.
The three- to five-year outlook also improved among 67 dealers who responded to the Pulse Report, a survey administered by Baird Equity Research in conjunction with the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas and Trade Only Today.
“The ‘family’ has recognized due to the pandemic, vacation is out for this year,” wrote one dealer respondent. “No amusement parks, hotels, cruises, destinations closed, etcetera. So, let's look at boating!”
“We are finally seeing more new boaters and families,” wrote another.
Seventy percent reported retail growth in May, up from just 20 percent prior months, and the strongest recorded in the Pulse Report since July 2018, according to Baird.
The pandemic has created “a surge in interest in socially-distanced outdoor activities, but the true impact on retail demand is hard to parse — even for those in the industry,” read the Pulse Report.
"I've never seen a buying frenzy like this,” wrote one retailer. “Is this a short-term bump or is it a long-term change in consumer habits?"
Used boat retail also altered noticeably, with 74 percent reporting growth, versus just 16 percent reporting a decline.
Dealers reported increased consumer interest in listing their boats for sale and a stronger interest in late-model trade-in activity.
“Preowned is moving fast, and not just extremely clean product."
However, another remarked: "Deals getting tougher to do, as trade values are trending way above book value."
Used lean inventory and higher used boat prices support higher levels of new boat sales — a positive for OEMs.
“Our checks support anecdotal evidence that consumers are shifting their leisure time and dollars to socially-distanced outdoor activities,” said the report. “Still, it is difficult to balance outdoor optimism with economic pessimism,” a topic that is likely to come up at a Baird conference with marine companies.