Brunswick shut down manufacturing, the state of California was on lockdown and Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez closed county parks that often contain public boat launches.
The marine industry initially seemed poised to fare decently in the wake of the coronavirus given that it’s an activity that lends itself to family isolation and seclusion. But there was so much confusion in every area of the industry that few people knew how to proceed forward.
Brunswick’s announcement this morning that it would pause production of boats — including its Sea Ray and Boston Whaler brands — as well as its Mercury engines was the latest in a string of announcements showing the industry that it too would feel effects of COVID-19.
That makes the biggest challenge now uncertainty, says Correct Craft CEO Bill Yeargin, who runs 14 locations across the country in various jurisdictions and approaches to the virus.
Prior to Brunswick’s announcement, the industry was hearing about vendors that were being forced to cease production.
“It is likely that we will see more restrictions on non-essential commerce,” Yeargin told Trade Only Today. “Of course, this has the potential to businesses identified as non-essential and we are preparing for all contingencies. Of course, anyone who has read Wallace J Nichols book, Blue Mind, might be persuaded to make the argument that marine businesses are essential.”
Betty Bauman, the person who runs the nonprofit called “Ladies, Let’s Go Fishing!” was disappointed after being forced to cancel an upcoming seminar after fishing charters were shut down.
Bauman said she heard that potentially charters with fewer than six people, which describes most of her trips, might get to go forward as planned, but she cancelled the upcoming trip to be safe.
She was even more disappointed and confused after seeing a tweet from Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Giménez announcing the closure of public parks.
“They say they’re closing parks, but the boat ramps are in the parks,” said Bauman. “I can’t be the only one scratching my head and saying, ‘Can I launch my boat or not?’ I was going to have my seminar, but I thought, if I can’t even go fishing, what the heck?”
The industry has more challenges than it did in the Great Recession, said Yeargin.
“In 2008, we had one issue — the marketplace,” said Yeargin. “Now we’ve got four: the marketplace; supply chain, because if some jurisdiction shuts down a key supplier, you’ve got supply chain issues; employee issues; and the fourth issue is the government rightfully trying to flatten the curve. They are trying to slow this down.”
The Outdoor Recreation Roundtable was thinking about possibilities for the outdoor industry as well as the hazards and put together a list of recommendations for safely getting outside.
“I think our industry is actually going to do well in this economic downturn,” said Wendy Mackie, director of the Rhode Island Marine Trade Association. “Not necessarily in new boats sold, but I think boats are going to get off the ground and people are going to utilize their boats. That’s a recreation where you’re away from other people; water’s naturally healing.”
For now, Yeargin said Correct Craft brands are receiving and filling orders, adding: “We are planning for the best and the worst and everything in between.”