Feel-good news that should boost our spirits


In case you haven’t been following it, thus far every fall show has seen an increase in attendance and better sales reports, clear indication consumers are coming back to what remains the industry’s single most effective medium for putting products in front of thousands of prospects.

With the exception of the Tampa Boat Show’s whopping 44 percent attendance increase, all major shows (seven by my count) so far have scored between 4 percent and 16 percent boosts in attendance, the latter increase coming last weekend for the Michigan Boating Industry Association’s Boating & Outdoor Festival.

Equally important is that there are consistent reports of increased sales at the shows over a year ago. With many good shows from Annapolis to Lido Beach coming up, dealers have solid reason to be enthusiastic about exhibiting. They are where the action will be.

New car sales booming

The auto industry has become a good indicator that consumers are increasing spending. Buyers reportedly gobbled up 1.5 million new vehicles last month, topping expectations. Industry observers now predict sales will approach prerecession levels of 16 million vehicles per year.

Several reasons are cited including low interest loan terms up to 10 years and 41 million retirees with Social Security checks. The retirees have increased the average age of new car buyers from 46 in 2001 to 55 in 2011. It’s a big demographic we can’t overlook.

But the reason that strikes me most is an apparent lowering of standards for borrowers, even those dubbed sub-prime. It’s a fact that during the next two years, literally millions of consumers who declared bankruptcy or had credit delinquencies will see those disappear from their credit reports. Given the many sales lost by dealers because of a buyer’s credit report, this is promising news.

Finally, according to Deutsche Bank AG, sub-prime car loans with an interest rate of 14 percent are already up nearly 25 percent from last year. Finance companies are packaging these loans into automotive-asset-backed securities and with Wall Street are selling them to willing buyers looking for high returns. These securities have grown from $2.9 billion in 2009 to $14.7 billion so far this year. While boating doesn’t generate a sufficient loan volume for packaging, could lower loan standards spin off for marine financing?

Joe Lewis honored

The Sea Tow Foundation’s Golden Life Jacket Award will be given to marine dealer Joe Lewis this Saturday during the Orlando (Fla.) Boat Show, a fitting recognition of a man who gives tirelessly to the industry and his community.

The owner of Mount Dora Boating Center, Lewis is one of those rare individuals whose character is to give back to others. He currently serves as chairman of our industry’s Grow Boating initiative; vice president and treasurer of the Marine Industry Association of Central Florida; treasurer of the Marine Retailers Association of America; and in the MRAA Retailers Hall of Fame. He is also a past president and past director of the Marine Industries Association of Florida.

In addition, Lewis teaches four community boating classes: “Boating 101,” “Fear of Docking” (and how to overcome it), “Women on the Water” (including taking the helm) and “How to Maintain Your Boat.” His marina is a Sea Tow Life Jacket Loaner Station.

Finally, the Lewis family annually stages the largest Christmas display in his community. It takes more than two months to assemble, it covers the entire marina property and it draws thousands of spectators to Mount Dora. I know, I was awed by it last Christmas.


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