Dealers concerned over inventory increase

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New inventory was a concern for dealers in October.

New inventory was a concern for dealers in October.

More than half of marine dealers said their boat inventory was too high in October, and only 11 percent said it was too low, according to a new survey measuring market conditions.

Several suggested a lack of urgency on the part of consumers after months of strong demand had contributed to the amount of products on showroom floors. They also pointed to lackluster promotions as a reason for dampening momentum.

“Very concerned with manufacturers pushing product on dealers,” wrote one dealer in the Pulse Report, which Baird conducts in partnership with the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas and Trade Only Today. “I don't think the production times are as long as manufacturer makes them out to be.”

Another worried that builders were “too optimistic” about this model year, adding: “It will be a battle.”

“I think inventory is going to be way high for next year,” said a third. “Manufactures are ramping up production and expecting dealers to take it.”

Weather played a part in many pockets of the country as well, being cited as the No. 1 negative impact during the month, followed by government action or inaction.

That all contributed to a fairly dramatic drop in dealer sentiment regarding current conditions and longterm outlook.

Dealer sentiment on current conditions dipped from 65 in September to 60, its lowest level in many months and a sharp decline from October 2017, when it was 77.

The three- to five-year outlook dropped to 59, its lowest level since the survey was launched in 2014. September’s rating was 73, and October 2017 it was 78. For context, 50 is considered a neutral rating.

Dealers also gave feedback on fall boat shows, with about half, 54 percent, saying sales were roughly flat with last year’s fall shows; 34 percent reported an increase.

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Fifteen percent reported gains more than 10 percent, and 18 percent said fall show sales were 5 to 10 percent higher than in 2017 — 12 percent said they were down from last year.

“The consumer has seemed to have lost the warm and fuzzy feeling and slammed the checkbook shut,” wrote one dealer. “Maybe after the November elections we can find some direction to the upside. At least let's hope the midterms are the cause of this slow down if not we could be in for some uneasy times.”

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