Industry sees hope with ‘fiscal cliff’ deal

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Industry leaders say they’re relieved that Congress prevented the nation from dropping off the so-called “fiscal cliff,” but there are still challenges ahead on several fronts.

Even with those hurdles, they say the marine industry is well-positioned for more growth in 2013.

“Improved consumer confidence and Congress’ decision to maintain lower taxes on approximately 98 percent of Americans will bode well for new-boat sales in 2013,” National Marine Manufacturers Association president Thom Dammrich told Trade Only Today.

The fact that legislators once again waited until the final hour to make a deal was disheartening to Marine Retailers Association of the Americas president Matt Gruhn.

“There's no doubt that I'm glad they got a deal done,” Gruhn told Trade Only in an email. “But while it's encouraging that we're making baby steps to address the financial problems our nation has, it's very discouraging to watch all of the bickering that takes place to get us to this point.”

“We have a long way to go to get our financial house in order and it would be great if all the finger pointing and all the other politics that have become a part of this ongoing conversation would give way to true partnership and compromise,” Gruhn said.

Fred Pace, co-owner of Destin, Fla.-based Legendary Marine, which was recently named the country’s top dealer by Boating Industry, agrees that avoiding the cliff was crucial.

“We're glad to see that we dodged the fiscal cliff, but any time there is a financial issue of this magnitude we know that affluent conservatives will naturally think more carefully about their investments,” Pace told Trade Only in an email.

“That being said, we believe that people who embrace the boating lifestyle will find a way and means to boat,” Pace said. “The impetus is upon us on the retail front to continually deliver a solid return on the boating investment and to ensure the best possible boating experience for our customers.”

Making the deal was an important factor in continuing to improve consumer confidence, Dammrich said.

"Averting going over the fiscal cliff is a positive for U.S. recreational boating, as it will hopefully strengthen consumer confidence going into the new year, which had dipped toward the end of 2012, given economic uncertainty,” he told Trade Only in an email.

“We’ll be watching economic conditions closely over the next couple of months as Congress continues debating federal spending and the deficit, important issues left to be determined,” Dammrich added. “However, overall, we’re in a good position as we head into winter boat show season and anticipate strong shows. We're poised to maintain the momentum gained in 2012, which will likely close with a 10 percent increase at retail, compared to 2011.”

— Reagan Haynes

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