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New year looks promising for our industry

I can’t recall the last time we went into New Year’s Day with everything working for us. Thom Dammrich, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association, calls it the “best tail winds in years.” I call it time for dealers to make more money in the boat business!

Heading into our 2018 winter boat show season, which kicks off this Friday with the Houston International Boat, Sport and Travel Show, the economic news couldn’t be better. Check out these figures:

  • The NMMA’s New Powerboat Registrations Report and advance data updated through October 2017 show that new powerboat registrations were up 4.7 percent for the rolling 12-month period through October. Moreover, virtually all segments were up. Cruisers were up 9.7 percent; pontoons were up 7.4 percent; towboats were up 6.7 percent; PWC were up 5.6 percent; outboard-powered boats were up 4.9 percent; and boats 27 feet and larger were up 7.7 percent. And these numbers include a short-lived 37 percent drop in boat sales in Florida (the No. 1 state in sales) in September after Hurricane Irma.
  • Consumers are spending! In November, retail spending for the holidays really cranked up. Americans spent more in November and at retail for the holidays — an increase of 0.6 percent — the best since 2011. It’s a clear signal that low unemployment, high consumer confidence, expected tax cuts and fatter paychecks, and the hot financial markets are underpinning a strong economy heading into 2018.
  • You say you want more — try these: The wealth effects from stock indexes are reaching a new high. Personal income rose 0.3 percent in November alone. Disposable personal income went up 0.4 percent in November. And consumers are spending it while unemployment is at a 17-year low.
  • Now add more fuel in the form of new housing starts that jumped to a 13-month high in November. New residential construction rose 3.3 percent, to 1,297,000 units in November, from the previous month, with a significant uptick in single-family construction, to 930,000 units (up 13 percent in the past 12 months). We have long known that as housing goes, so goes our industry.
  • Gone is the one cloud that has persistently hung over new-boat sales. Homebuilder optimism is at an 18-year high, with a very healthy outlook for 2018. In November, existing-home sales were up 5.6 percent, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.81 million, and new-home sales were up 17.5 percent, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 733,000. This is the highest level of existing-home sales since December 2006; new-home sales were at their best level since July of 2007.

Two of the biggest early shows — the Houston event and the Chicago Boat, RV and Sail Show, which opens Jan. 10 — will be bellwether events that set the pace for the myriad indoor shows slated across the country through March. It’s clearly a good time to be exhibiting at local shows.

All signs point to continued growth for the economy and new-boat sales in 2018.

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