Distributors cautious on upcoming year

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LAS VEGAS — Marine distributors are generally optimistic about the future, with most expecting their accessory sales to be either up or the same in 2009.

That’s according to a survey the National Marine Distributors Association released during the Marine Aftermarket Accessories Trade Show, which immediately preceded the organization’s annual Sales, Training, Education & Purchasing conference, held July 14-15 in Las Vegas.

The questionnaire, sent out this year, was completed by 22 out of the 25 distributors who received it — an 84 percent return rate.

It showed that most respondents said next year’s sales would either stay the same or exceed those in 2008; 50 percent said sales would increase.

“That’s pretty incredible,” NMDA executive director Nancy Cueroni said of the results. “The aftermarket isn’t doing as well as it has done, it isn’t doing as well as it will do, but it’s not suffering to the same degree [as other segments of the industry], so I think it’s a little easier to be more optimistic about these things.”

The survey also found that 36 percent of respondents said sales were up this year over last year, with 59 percent saying sales were down. Five percent said sales were similar to 2007 figures.

Distributors are not selling all the accessories they may have in the past, said Cueroni. Items such as safety packages for new boats, for example, are not selling well.

“There is a definite impact by new boat sales being down, but the used-boat market and the replacement of the aftermarket accessories helps,” she said.

Also, she added, many distributors have been in business long enough to know the industry is cyclical and they have weathered down markets in the past.

Most distributors said they expect their inventory levels for 2009 will be the same or smaller than this year, with 59 percent saying they will retain the same levels.

In regard to money coming in from dealers, 41 percent said their collections were the same this year as in 2007, with 55 percent reporting slower collections.

The NMDA does a monthly report, Cueroni said, and in the June 2008 report distributors said 76 percent of their receivables were current, with 16 percent being 30 days past due. In June 2007, 80 percent were current, with 11.5 percent being 30 days past due. In June 2006, 82 percent were current and 10 percent were past due.

“It’s not that they’re uncollectible, they’ve just aged a little bit,” Cueroni said.

The survey also showed that 46 percent of distributors are servicing the same number of dealers this year as in 2007, with 45 percent saying they are servicing more dealers this year than last year. This says there are not a lot of dealers going out of business as a result of the weak economy, according to Cueroni.

Five percent said their average size order is up in 2008, with 68 percent saying it’s down and 27 percent saying the order sizes have remained the same.

“It fits the fact that most people are being a little more cautious in their purchasing habits,” Cueroni said of the lower average size of orders.”

This article originally appeared in the September 2008 issue.