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First-Time Buyers Create CSI Challenge

First-time boat buyers are finally on the rise.

First-time boat buyers are finally on the rise.

It’s official: The number of first-time boat buyers is on the rise. The industry has been hearing a lot of anecdotal evidence about the increase in first-time buyers, and Info-Link has empirical data to back up the claim.

“Over the past couple of decades, the incidence of first-time boat buyers has been on a steady decline, but we are now seeing a significant and welcome reversal of this trend,” Jack Ellis, managing director of Info-Link, told Trade Only Today. “The percentage of first-time buyers so far this year is up across almost every segment, especially runabouts, small cruisers and pontoon boats — in other words, boats that are particularly appealing for family recreation.”

The industry now will have to focus on retaining the new boaters.

The industry now will have to focus on retaining the new boaters.

Historically, however, 42 percent of first-time boat buyers sell their boat within five years and opt not to replace it, Ellis said.

“We’ve got this influx of first-time buyers, now what do we do to keep them?” Ellis said.

As sales increase, customer service indices have dropped, likely driven by a lack of follow-up by the dealer or salesperson, wrote Matt Gruhn, president of the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas, in a blog post.

Responding to the importance of customer service, MRAA has set up a Keep Customers Boating portal that includes a wealth of resources.

“MRAA’s role is really focused on retaining those customers,” Gruhn said.

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