“Selling lickety-split” is music to my ears

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The headline in a recent edition of USA Today read “Homes are selling lickety-split.” I turned to my wife and said: “Now there’s just one more reason I predict 2013 will be a good year for the boating industry.”

Now I realize my record of predictions isn’t always spot on, although I fully agree with President Obama that Indiana will win the NCAA tournament (in the interest of full disclosure, I am an Indiana alum). Anyway, I find it easier to predict boating industry success this year than picking the NCAA basketball champ. Here’s why:

We have known since this recession started that a recovery in the housing market would be a precursor to our growth. Now comes news from Realtor.com that homes sold faster in February than in any February since 2007. That’s before the crash.

We know part of the reason for speedier sales is stemming from reduced inventory on the market. Regardless, it also signals growing consumer confidence looking forward. Add in the fact that consumers have significantly reduced debt during the downturn and it clearly indicates that they’re poised to increase spending.

The positive housing market picture is further boosted by the fact that the nation’s home builders started more new houses in February — and pulled more new construction permits — at the fastest pace in 4-1/2 years, according to the Commerce Department. Builders broke ground for new homes in February at a seasonally adjusted rate of 917,000, up from 910,000 in January. These increases all point to a recovery in housing that has traction.

But if you want to bring the picture closer to home, my random review of reports from our major-market boat show indicate that nine out of every 10 shows held this winter have recorded increases in attendance and retail sales reported by exhibitors. From Boston to L.A., from Cleveland to Houston, from Miami to Providence, they’ve all been up. Yes, most have been up by a small amount (1 percent to 5 percent), but we must recognize that in recent years nine out of 10 were down. The turnaround in shows is more evidence of our return to growth.

For example, one market I watch closely is Detroit. And the turnaround experienced by the Michigan Boating Industries Association under executive director Nicki Polan is most telling. Two things happened at the Detroit Boat Show in mid-February: It was expanded for the first time in several years by an additional exhibit hall and the show saw its attendance rise.

Remember, Detroit is in hard times, with the state even threatening to take over Detroit’s finances. Then, in March, the MBIA moved on to produce its Spring Boating Expo in nearby Novi. Perhaps working off the momentum set at the nine-day Detroit show, the four-day expo increased in size by 14,000 square feet of exhibits and saw attendance jump 18 percent to 12,952.

If you want even more evidence, check out Statistical Surveys’ report that 2012 sales industry wide totaled 202,403 boats, an increase of 9.6 percent from 184,627 in 2011. It’s the first time in three years boat sales have topped 200,000, an important milestone in our recovery.

Like the housing market, positive signals from Detroit, and virtually everywhere else, should have us pumped and ready to cash in on the spring selling season just ahead.