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Still Standing Strong

Before I started writing about the recreational side of the boating business 22 years ago, I spent my days as a wholesale account representative at a marine supply shop in Annapolis, Md. — and had an encyclopedic knowledge of the thousands of parts, components and accessories that keep the gears of the marine industry smoothly turning.

If one of my wholesale clients asked for a joker valve for a Jabsco 29090 head, I knew from memory that he needed part number 29092-1000. All I had to do was see if we had it in stock. If someone needed a repair kit for a Flojet freshwater pump, I knew the part number of the kit and every component inside of it. If a boater wanted any sort of marine wiring part, I’d point him toward Ancor Marine. A battery switch? Blue Seas Systems. A hatch or winch? Lewmar. A cowl vent? Vetus.

By the time I became editor-in-chief of Soundings Trade Only in January, the marine industry landscape was far more concentrated than the wide array of parts and components suggests. Flojet and Jabsco — archenemies in the ’90s — are now under one roof at Xylem, which also owns 31 other brands. Brunswick’s Advanced Systems Group owns Ancor Marine and Blue Sea Systems. Lippert Components owns Lewmar, and Yanmar owns Vetus. There are far too many other changes in the industry to count or include in one column.

This month, we’re looking at mergers and acquisitions with a focus on multigenerational, family-owned businesses. We have profiles of Smoker Craft Boats and Mack Boring & Parts Co. — two multigenerational family businesses with more than 200 collective years of water under their keels. Our Q&A with Smoker Craft starts on Page 6. Staff editor Dom Yanchunas’ profile of Mack Boring, which turns 100 this year, can be found on Page 22. While some family-owned businesses are awash in dysfunction, these two companies show what happens when family is the 3M 5200 that holds the operation together.

Elsewhere, mergers and acquisitions have continued at a fast clip during the past six to eight months. Kim Kavin’s reporting on Page 26 offers a rundown of recent consolidations and includes predictions from top industry dealmakers about how they see this type of activity continuing or changing in the months ahead.

And as everyone keeps adapting to fluctuating global conditions, we also take a look at the drought in the Western U.S. On Page 30, you’ll learn that things are perhaps less worrisome for lake-bound boaters than evening news coverage suggests. The tenacity and resolve of the marina businesses dealing with falling water levels is refreshing in the face of adversity and bad press.

Our guest columns and financial reports are tools you can use to guide your business through what is being called the post-Covid bubble — a world where record demand and spending in the industry normalizes into something very unlike what we’ve seen during the past two and a half years. Head to the back of the magazine to read our monthly “Economy Report,” “By the Numbers” data and “Pulse Report” statistics. Knowledge is power.

Last, it’s time to look forward to the busy fall trade shows, which will be the focus in our September issue. We’ll have previews of what to expect at Cannes, France; Newport, R.I.; Annapolis, Md.; IBEX in Tampa, Fla.; Monaco; Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; and Metstrade in Amsterdam. We’ll also be looking at how participants are preparing amid low inventory levels, supply-chain disruptions, inflation, interest-rate hikes, record fuel prices and the war in Ukraine.

Everything we can see today — about the health of longstanding family businesses, the continuing pace of mergers and acquisitions, the tenacity of boating businesses in places with water shortages and the return of normal, in-person boat shows — is that despite all the challenges that persist, our industry remains strong.

And you don’t need to have part number 29092-1000 memorized to know it. 

This article was originally published in the August 2022 issue.

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