The concern earlier this year about the economy possibly tanking seems far away now with the latest upswing that economists believe will lead to continued consumer spending and keep the economy growing. And, it comes for marine dealers and their sales teams at a perfect time in our prime selling season.
Specifically, the Conference Board announced this week that its Consumer Confidence Index rose to 129.2 in April, up from 124.2 in March. The Index measures what consumers think about the current economic conditions and their expectations for the next six months. Both measures rose in April.
Economists put a high value on the Index because consumer spending accounts for about 70 percent of the nation’s economic activity. The Index took a hit in March, mainly attributable to a reported sluggish retail spending, a disappointing hiring report for February and the ongoing trade problems with China that combined to dampen expectations for growth. But hiring shot back up in March as employers added nearly 200,000 jobs. The unemployment rate remains at 3.8 percent, nearly the lowest in a half century.
“Overall, consumers expect the economy to continue growing at a solid pace into the summer months,” noted Lynn Franco, the Conference Board’s senior director of economic indicators. “These strong confidence levels should continue to support consumer spending in the near term,” she concluded.
To top off the good news, a government report last week reviewing the first quarter (January – March) showed the economy actually grew faster than expected. It’s a strong indication that the near 10-year expansion we’ve been enjoying still has running room. It is the second longest expansion on record.
Bottom line: there’s now little fear we’ll slip into a recession anytime soon. So, the table is set to sell more boats.
SELL TO GENERATION X
Boomers are generally getting out of boating. Millennials are consumed by raising kids and buying homes. But Generation X is wedged in between the boomers and millennials and they have money to spend on pursuits like boating and, therefore, should be a prime target for sales.
Gen Xers are defined by the Center for Generational Kinetics as those born from 1965 to 1976. Typically, Gen Xers returned home from school to empty houses while Mom and Dad were working. They relied on themselves to decide what to watch on TV, did some household chores, decided when to do homework and were basically left to their own devices more than their baby boomer parents.
Today, Gen Xers have raised their kids, own their home and are reaching their peak earnings years. Moreover, they are the generation inheriting the wealth of their boomer parents whose generation is dying off at the rate of 12,000 per day. So, they make a clear priority target for boat sales if we know who they are and what they value.
So check out these six traits identified by Nancy Dunham, an award-winning journalist and author, that define the Gen Xers:
- They’re obsessed with social media. Surprisingly, a study by Nielsen found Gen Xers spend more time on social media than their younger counterparts, the Millennials. A Gen Xer spends, on average, six hours and 58 minutes per week on social media, the study found. So utilizing social media is a route to connect with them.
- Gen Xers are quick to intervene as parents. Often referred to as “security moms” and “committed dads,” Gen Xers will intervene even more than baby boomers whose “hovering” earned them the nickname “helicopter parents.” But the point here is that family is important to them and that plays to boating’s strong suit.
- They don’t hide their skepticism. Gen Xers are geared toward skepticism and will question everything. Don’t be surprised if they continually weigh the pros and cons before making decisions. Patience and effectively answering their questions are key here.
- Gen Xers are patriotic. They may be skeptical, but don’t think for a minute that means they don’t care about the homeland. Some 64 percent of respondents in this age group said the phrase “a patriotic person” described them very well, according to the Pew Research Center. That’s a healthy margin over the Millennials surveyed who said the same thing (49 percent), though a smaller share than the baby boomers (75 percent).
- They will question authority. Gen Xers continually question authority, especially when the authority affects their children, They don’t want their children to endure the hands-off parental involvement they experienced. So time with kids, say enjoying family boating, can be the biggest selling point.
- Gen Xers are technologically adept. They didn’t start life swiping a touch screen but they more or less grew up with computers and learned their tech skills as the technology evolved. That sets them apart from many baby boomers, especially those on the older end, who tend to be more frustrated with constant technological change. A common characteristic of Gen Xers is their comfort level with PDAs, smartphones, email, laptops, tablets and other technology. So, they’re also receptive to the sales messages of outstanding technological changes in today’s boats, engines and electronics.
While the millennials are now the biggest demographic in the nation at 76 million, it’s the smaller Generation X with 52 million that is known to put a high value on the experience when it comes to things they do and buy. That makes them an ideal target for boats and boating.