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Maryland trade group discusses ways to lure new boaters

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — The Marine Trades Association of Maryland focused on “The Scary Graying of the Industry” during a member conference Tuesday, based on a report in in Soundings Trade Only.

American Boat and Yacht Council president John Adey addressed the group on statistics about boaters.

“There’s been a major shift in who’s buying boats,” Adey told the group of about 100. “Boat buyers are aging and that’s reflected in ABYC’s membership. I believe the average age of members is between 63 and 65. It’s a problem all around and we can look at it all together. It’s going to take the industry to work together toward solutions.”

Trade Only associate editor Reagan Haynes also addressed the group about the creative moves some have made in order to address the Millennials, a generation who, though perhaps too young to buy boats today, will be future targets of the industry.

For example, John Dorton at Bryant Boats tapped a design school to create a boat that would appeal to them. Haynes also spoke about some out-of-the-box methods for reaching the increasing Hispanic and Asian demographics in the United States.

A panel discussion on customer service led to some creative ways to engage customers. Speaking to that topic were Nancy Bray, with Hartge Yacht Harbor, Joe Pomerantz with Piney Narrows, Jed Dickman with Herrington Harbor Marinas, Scott Tinkler with Port Annapolis Marina, and Don Reimers with Spring Cove Marina in Solomons.

Bray said simple things, such as planting a vegetable garden and facilitating potlucks, had been hugely popular and economical ways to foster a sense of community at Hartge Yacht Harbor.

“We know docks are cliquey in nature, but when they get to know more people on more piers, and find more in common and have networks of friends, none of your slip holders are going anywhere,” Dickman said. “We try to facilitate those platforms with slip holder parties and meals. Those get expensive, but you can do the same thing in a less expensive way. A keg of beer and an acoustic guy accomplishes the same thing.”

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