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Recreational boating is big business

During these difficult economic times it’s easy to focus on the negatives rather than the positives. Though total industry sales of products and services was down 5 percent in 2007, we estimate the industry sold $37.5 billion of boating products and services last year.

Recreational boating is a major U.S. industry. The vast majority of that product and those services were made and delivered by U.S. workers in the thousands of small businesses that make up our industry.

Why is this important? 

Nearly 19,000 boating businesses in the U.S. directly employ more than 154,000 employees in the U.S. When we factor in indirect spending by boaters (trip spending) the economic significance of recreational boating exceeds $100 billion and the employment of over 337,000 people in the U.S.

Nationally, most boat segments saw declines in unit sales. The exceptions were jet boats and inflatable boats which grew 10 percent and 17 percent respectively.

The average price of a new outboard boat, motor and trailer increased 7 percent over 2006 to $29,398.

Boating is a solidly middle class lifestyle. Nearly 75 percent of current boat owners have an average household income of less than $100,000. And, 95 percent of registered mechanically propelled boats are less than 26 feet in length. Outboard boats are the most popular, making up nearly two-thirds of all registered boats.

While nearly one in ten U.S. households owns a boat, there remains significant opportunity. There are more than 18 million U.S. households that don’t own a boat and that fit the profile of first time boat owners. Russell Research reports that the Discover Boating campaign moved six percent of our target audience from not interested in boating, to interested in boating. By interested we mean having plans to buy a boat.

To move someone from no interest in boat ownership to interested, to consideration, to shopping and then to purchase—it can take three or more years.

We’ve always known this would be a long-term initiative but having the patience to see our efforts through can be one of the biggest challenges. Grow Boating is in its third year. The industry’s united efforts are creating future boat owners.

Reader responses to my blog have posed some questions I will be answering in future blog entries. This has been an interesting experience for me thus far – to be able to share my thoughts with so many people. The feedback has been insightful and if there are questions or comments that might require more in-depth discussion or detail I also welcome you to contact me directly.

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