n a new record for the Pulse Report, every one of the 63 marine retailers who responded during the March survey period indicated that new-boat inventory was “too low.” The vast majority (90 percent) also said they saw retail growth in the survey period, with more than two-thirds — 67 percent — citing increased sales in used boats, as well.
Although growth is usually good news, it’s causing customer-service concerns, as summed up in this dealer’s comment: “Pontoons are very hot. We have had to scale back our marketing because we just don’t have the inventory and don’t want to bring people into an empty showroom.”
Another dealer cited similar concerns, questioning why manufacturers continue to push demand for new boats that dealers do not have. “Promotions/new products released when there is little or no product available,” the dealer stated. “The marketing and production people need to get on the same page.”
Used-boat inventory also remains lean, with 94 percent of dealers reporting used inventory is “too low” versus none reporting “too high.” One dealer noted, “We have shifted to selling ‘production slots’ and are having little resistance to late deliveries.” Another added, “Service is paying the bills. Boat [sales] are not at this time.”
The survey, conducted by Baird Research in conjunction with the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas and Soundings Trade Only, showed that overall sentiment on current conditions remains strong — actually increasing a couple percentage points from the last survey (77 versus 75); the three- to five-year outlook also improved (64 now versus 57 in the previous month). One dealer commented: “Anything and everything seems to be working right now. The problem is getting product.”
“[We are] not promoting anything,” one dealer stated. “Everything is selling as soon as it hits the yard.”
Dealers reported the largest delays are in restocking fiberglass boats, pontoons and aluminum fishing boats. Although respondents indicated fewer shortages in electronics and accessories, about half of the dealers said they were having at least “moderate” delays in these categories.
Consensus among dealers was that ongoing marine-retail demand combined with supply-chain slowdowns have delayed dealer restocking, creating inventory shortages for the foreseeable future. “Not really a lot we as dealers can do,” one respondent said. “We are at the mercy of the manufacturers.”
However, others stated that daily calls with OEMs to keep updated about product availability have been helpful to know when boats ordered may arrive. “We have frequent communication to get realistic lead times. Order up on certain products and hope we get some of them in,” was one comment.
Without the benefit of boats in showrooms, manufacturers will have to keep pace with retail demand as retail volume seasonally increases. Time will tell if rifts in the supply chain can be rectified and expanded production can ramp up to satisfy both dealers and consumers.
This article was originally published in the May 2021 issue.