For this month’s Pulse Report, we reached out to 96 marine retailers to assess current retail trends and ask dealers for thoughts on attending boat shows this year, even though boats and other inventory remains low. The monthly survey is conducted by Baird Research in conjunction with the Marine Retailers
Association of the Americas and Soundings Trade Only.
Again this month, more dealers reported retail declines than reported growth as low inventory has limited retail activity, though the margin is narrowing from previous months, according to survey results. Encouragingly, retail sentiment improved from the last survey and remains positive. The outlook seems to be that the restocking cycle should support wholesale demand through 2022, which is good news for marine OEMs and suppliers.
This month, 46 percent of dealers surveyed reported retail declines, versus 36 percent that reported growth. “Demand and a hot summer are keeping inventory at historic low levels,” one dealer said. Another remarked about the customer base: “Lots of first-time buyers, or those who boated years ago and are interested again.”
For the sixth consecutive Pulse Report, every dealer surveyed said new-boat inventory was “too low.” Used-boat inventory seems only slightly better, with 97 percent of dealers reporting used inventory as “too low.” One dealer noted that “product shortages at all levels make final rigging a boat very difficult.”
Sentiment on current conditions improved from last month (to 60 from 55), and the three- to five-year outlook moved to 59 percent from 55 percent favorable. One dealer commented: “Been terrific having virtually no flooring costs. Those savings go directly to the bottom line. We have been able to sell off all aged inventory, including outboards, accessories, etc. The cleanest we will have been in 18 years going into the fall.”
Which brings us to the boat-show question. With the lack of retail inventory, more than three-quarters of dealers reported that they are still considering whether or not to attend shows this year and next. Dealer answers were varied, but mainly were positive.
“We are unsure if we will be able to get enough product to attend a show,” one dealer said. “If we do sign a show contract, it will be for [half] space or less than normal.” Another answered, “We have four dealership locations in Texas. We do not participate in any local or regional shows. We send the sales team to Fort Lauderdale and Miami to work the international shows.”
Other answers included: “The shows have fundamentally changed, and that is a good thing. We need to follow the auto
industry and use the shows to showcase only new products and move the focus away from transactional sales.” And, “Our spring shows were very successful and give us confidence to proceed with fall and winter shows. We have firm commitments from the builders ensuring new models will be available for the upcoming show schedule.”
One comment summed up the value of boat shows. “Being there is important. We meet our customers. We meet new boaters … and remain highly visible. We are addressing the temporary inventory supply on our terms, and we tell our own story about our business, boats and the boating lifestyle. We need to be at our shows to successfully do these things. We’re always eager to meet with our customers and all boaters/consumers to learn about their needs and thought processes, especially during this unusual space of time. Shows always keep us in a learning mode regarding competitors and the market.”
This article was originally published in the September 2021 issue.