Whether a recession is officially declared or not, the boat-sales-boosting pandemic and its recovery have played out, and that dealers fail to plan for the need to again aggressively seek sales will likely be caught short, according to data published by the Northwest Marine Trade Association in its Water Life newsletter.
NMTA teamed up with the University of Washington Sea Grant, which recently shared June new, brokerage and private registration data from the Department of Licensing, and its sobering. The data shows new-boat registrations by dealers in June increased by 5.3 percent in units compared with June 2021, with 918 new boats registered versus 872. However, the value of these boats was $56.7 million, compared with $60.2 million a year ago, a 5.8 percent drop in value.
Equally concerning, the data reveals new dealer registrations for the second quarter were down 16.6 percent in units and down 8.2 percent in value, compared with 2021. Further, brokerage registrations in June 2022 were down 26.1 percent in units (369 registered) but up 10.7 percent in value ($35.3 ,million) compared versus June 2021.
“Here in the Pacific Northwest, we had an unusually cold and wet spring, and June was referred to as ‘Juneuary,’ ” said NMTA president and CEO George Harris. “Dealers told me the weather was more impactful on sales and deliveries this spring than fuel prices or the economy.
“That said,” Harris continued, “it’s clear consumer confidence is changing, and for 2023 I think we will see a return to a more traditional sales process where consumers are more careful with their discretionary spending. Further, I think this will increase the role and importance of the winter boat shows and the promotion of boating to retain and attract boaters of all types — as they have done for decades.”
Harris pointed out that NMTA members know this is the No. 1 priority this winter, and it’s already reflected in 2023 Seattle Boat Show registrations. “We at NMTA have always appreciated the support and trust from our members to promote boating and their businesses, and we’ll be stepping up that effort going forward,” Harris said.
Further, NMTA members were encouraged to access the Sea Grant data and reach out to Harris (firstname.lastname@example.org) for a deeper dive and discussion.
Reports in The Wall Street Journal seem to reflect NMTA’s assessment, citing evidence that consumers have “powered through the pandemic and inflation — until now.” Signals are now coming from companies and government that spending is showing “increasing strain,” particularly in larger-ticket items like electronics and furniture. Families are cutting back as prices for essentials go higher.
Two of the nation’s biggest retailers, Walmart and Best Buy, warn that a steeper-than-expected pullback in consumer spending will crimp their profits. And they are expected to lead a long list of retailers that will experience the same.
Inflation hit 9.1 percent in June, a sobering 40-year high. Marine dealers may already be feeling the wind picking up and should prepare to navigate a likely storm that many predict will run well into 2023 — and possibly beyond.