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Family sport? Think again

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Boating – it’s a family sport, right? We’ve been touting that for as long as I can remember. And while we’ve been on target with that claim in the past, here’s some new information that should start us thinking.

According to the recent Census, for the first time in U.S. history more households are headed by single adults than married people. Specifically, 50.3% of the 111 million American homes are now headed by a single adult. U.S. marriage rates have been slipping for many years for a variety of reasons. For example, divorce no longer bears the stigma of past decades and people are generally tying the knot later. Also, co-habitation without marriage is up and the vastly improved earnings power of women means the need for a husband to afford luxuries isn’t as necessary. The bottom line of all this is a large target for sales.

Generally speaking, businesses have a history of not treating singles as equals to marrieds. Consider that singles are routinely charged higher auto insurance premiums. They’re also routinely offered lower salaries for the same job. And singles must anti-up more for an identical vacation package on a cruise or at an all-inclusive resort.

But singles, all 87 million of them, have real buying power. Contrary to stereotyping that assumes all singles are primarily looking for mates, many are single by choice. Singles were a significant force in the recent real estate boom -- some estimate as much as 25% -- and they were not typically the sub-prime borrowers, either.

As I see it, all this raises the question: Should we consider dumping the old “family sport” mantle? The answer: No, that wouldn’t be smart. After all, we have too much invested in that image and it does reflect one of the great benefits of boating. But the shear number of singles should make us consider investing in efforts to develop an image as a sport of choice for singles, too.

For starters, we might add a new TV commercial and/or print ad aimed at singles to next year’s Discover Boating campaign. Manufacturers might develop literature and/or POP materials that sell the idea of singles and boating – how about a “girls just wanna have fun in boats” theme. As dealers, we might consider using direct mail to reach local singles clubs in the community. Or, how about an in-store “Intro to Boating Day for Singles” presented by some singles who boat. Perhaps start a Boating Singles Club with special offers and programs. If you want to find out what “hot buttons” singles might respond to, ask your single employees or have them ask their single friends, etc. I think a little brainstorming could go a long way in helping reach new market segments, like singles, that we haven’t really pursued in the past.

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