July’s Tidal Wave of Demand

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Marine dealers continued to experience unprecedented demand in July, with 84 percent of those responding to the monthly Pulse Report survey saying they had experienced retail growth for the month.

It was the second highest reading in the history of the Pulse Report, which is administered by Baird Equity Research in conjunction with the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas and Soundings Trade Only. June was the highest reading of retail growth ever in the survey, with 89 percent reporting increased sales.

“If it floats, it sells — and for high margin,” wrote one of the 91 dealer respondents.

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As a result of strong demand, 89 percent of dealers reported new-boat inventory was too low, up from 86 percent in June and a new record for the survey. Depleted inventory is limiting retail sales as OEMs ramp up production.

“I thought it would settle after June and July ended up being fantastic,” said another dealer. “If we would have had more inventory, we could have doubled what we did.”

Nearly half of dealers reported that it’s “very difficult” to get new boats, with extreme wait times or limited availability.

Another 11 percent reported being unable to stock needed models, and 35 percent reported long wait times. Used-boat inventory also set a survey record, with 90 percent of dealers reporting used inventory levels are “too low,” up from 87 percent in June.

Dealer sentiment on current conditions increased from 89 in June to 91 in July, but the three- to five-year outlook ticked down to 65 from 71, reflecting the growing uncertainty despite record new- and used-boat demand.

“I'm going to watch what we stock for next year, going to be cautiously optimistic and stock what I did this year or maybe a little less,” said one dealer.

Some dealers commented that they were apprehensive about how the persistent pandemic would play out in the coming month and year, as well as the upcoming presidential election.

“It’s been quite a ride. I'm doubting that it is sustainable, though,” commented one retailer. “We are sober-minded going into fall.”

“I don't think we have experienced any of the repercussions of the shutdown yet,” said another. “All the helicopter money swirling around has made many delusional or oblivious to the true state of the economy. This fall could be interesting. For once, it was good to be in the recreation industry because people just wanted an escape. Come this fall when they have to pay for it but not use it will their attitudes change?”

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