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Dealers optimistic for short and long term

Marine retailer sentiment rose in April, both in its short-term and long-term outlook, according to a survey.

Dealers that responded to the monthly Pulse Report conducted by Robert W. Baird in conjunction with the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas and Soundings Trade Only, said that weather had been a drag on new boat sales, but largely remained optimistic.

Sentiment on current conditions was 76, ticking up from 74 in March, while sentiment on the 3-5 year outlook also improved from 64 in March to 72 in April.

Most dealers reported that 20 to 30 percent of boaters are under the age of 45.

Attracting the next generation of boaters is key for the industry long term, and dealers recognize the importance.

"Appreciate industry's attempt to recruit younger age boaters,” one dealer wrote.

“Our checks suggest marine trends remained positive in April, suggesting a solid start to the selling season. However, as is the case across our coverage, weather remains a headwind,” wrote senior research analyst Craig Kennison in the report. “Sentiment remains positive, but some dealers appear cautious in their outlook.”

Retailers indicated that the economy, new products, OEM promotions, and access to credit all positively impacted demand during April.

Several retailers indicated that the workforce shortage also created headwinds in April.

“We need to encourage people to go into the mechanical and skilled trades,” wrote one dealer. “We do not have enough staff to meet demand even though we pay one of the highest wages in our area.”

New boat inventory comfort appears balanced, as 30 percent of dealers consider inventory too low, versus 19 percent who thought it was too high.

Several dealers expressed inability to receive new boat inventory.

“Having inventory is going to be important this year,” wrote one dealer. “Those who have it will be in a position to have a big year. If you don't have it, good luck getting it!”

Another dealer expressed trepidation about the economy.

“We're taking small, but necessary steps now to button-down the hatches since we feel that Trump's economic bubble will eventually burst with no safeguards in place,” wrote one dealer. “The stock market is currently artificially inflated and once those who are the cause of the run-up realize that the profits they were anticipating with a less regulated government will fall short of their expectations, the house of cards will begin to tumble. My economics professor always said that growth is only sustainable when it's slow and consistent. Since January 2017 it's been a runaway freight train and the horseshoe bend is on the horizon. Lower your inventory going into the fall and build up your cash reserves.”

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