With Labor Day now in our wake, you gotta feel good about the outlook for the fall season ahead. Here, then, in no particular order of importance, are some exciting facts to stoke your enthusiasm for continued success:
1. The Conference Board says consumers’ assessment of current economic conditions has hit the highest level since July 2001. The unemployment rate is at 4.4 percent, which is nearly a 16-year low. Specifically, the overall Consumer Confidence Index rose to 122.9 in August from 120 in July. (Remember, the index hit bottom at 25.3 in February 2009!)
2. Since consumer spending accounts for about 70 percent of the nation’s economic activity, the high consumer confidence indicates spending should continue rising. And, boat buyers are economically diverse. But the majority (62 percent) has household incomes under $100,000 per year.
3. The industry’s fall boat shows should be looking for a good run. The first major fall in-water show, the North American Boat Show at Cedar Point (Ohio), has set a strong pace with an attendance gain of 18.7 percent, the largest single-year increase in nine years. Moreover, sales are reported good.
For example, Jason Clemons of Clemons Boats (Whaler, Nautic Star, Cobalt) noted: “We closed three boats at the show and have several big boats in the works. Traffic was fantastic. Strong leads, lots of buyers, customers were in a good mood and the weather was perfect for an outdoor show.”
4. The next big test will come as the Tampa Boat Show runs Sept. 22-24 with a total space sellout inside the Tampa Convention Center and an expanded adjacent in-water section that will feature boats to 65-feet-plus. Strong pre-show ticket sales are pointing to an attendance jump there. It’s the largest boat show on Florida’s west coast.
5. According to the Department of Commerce, the U.S. economy grew at a 3 percent pace in the second quarter of the year. It’s the strongest growth in more than two years. Just as notable, this growth has come without tax reform or a major infrastructure package. Now if Congress can actually get its act together and pass needed tax reform and a serious infrastructure package, the economic boost such actions would bring will put smiles on every dealer’s face!
6. That said, even if Congress should fail to give up its snit fest and get things done, we should remember that we know new-boat sales are strongest when GDP hits that magic growth of 3 percent or more. Our outlook is for it to continue at that rate.
7. Fishing continues to be a prime motivation for new boat purchases. Indeed, 83 percent of active anglers are also active boaters. So it’s good news when the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation’s studies have found fishing participation is growing. Specifically, 47.2 million Americans participated in fishing in 2016, up 1.5 million from 2015. Among adult outdoor participants, fishing is the second-most-popular outdoor activity. More than 2.5 million people had their very first fishing experience in 2016.
8. On the boating side, the RBFF also reports that a whopping 142 million Americans went boating in 2016. That’s 36 percent of all U.S. households, according to the 2016 Recreational Boating Participation Study. Of the 142 million individuals, 17 million were first-time participants, and half those were children under the age of 18. Accordingly, those who went boating in 2016 and spent the most hours on the water engaged in fishing and water sports were most likely to consider purchasing a new boat.
As Thom Dammrich, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association puts it: “The study makes clear what we all know as boaters — the more time spent on the water, the more likely someone is to become a boat owner. As an industry, it is our job to help people spend more time on the water and facilitate the boating and boat-buying process.”
9. Household spending increased for all income groups from 2015 to 2016. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, household spending increased for all five income groups, ranging from 1.6 percent for households in the top 20 percent of income to 4.9 percent for households in the second 20 percent of income.
10. Lastly, boating is a social pastime. Almost all active boaters say they spend time with friends or family while boating (95 percent). Enjoying nature (94 percent) and relaxing (93 percent) are also nearly universal boating experiences.