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Report shows British boat sales gaining ground

Troubles in the eurozone have hit British boat exports, but domestic demand helped the marine industry eke out sales growth for the year that ended last April, new figures showed on Monday.

Growth at smaller firms made up for a difficult year at the more export-focused big manufacturers, helping overall sales grow for the third year running, albeit by just 1 percent.

The findings were based on data released by the British Marine Federation at the London Boat Show, according to a report in The Guardian.

Total revenue in the UK leisure, superyacht and small commercial marine industry rose to about $4.42 billion in the year to April 2014 from about $4.39 billion a year earlier.

The domestic market became more important, rising to 68 percent of total revenue from 63 percent a year earlier. That helped offset an 8.7 percent drop in exports, but it runs counter to a government push to rebalance the UK economy toward more manufacturing and exports with less reliance on domestic demand.

The British Marine Federation criticizes the government’s withdrawal of previously promised enhanced funding to the trade body, which it says was used to help marine businesses take their first steps toward exporting and to help existing exporters expand into new markets.

“Despite the government having a target to double exports by 2020, the unexpected loss of funding earmarked for upcoming shows has left the industry to absorb costs to which it had already committed,” the federation said.

The federation’s manifesto for jobs, growth and innovation in the sector, also published on Monday, calls on the government to set aside the funds that help companies access trade shows and other export initiatives.

The report showed a pickup in jobs for the marine sector, to 31,500 full-time equivalent jobs in 2013-14, a 2.7 percent rise from a year earlier.

“The UK leisure marine industry has continued to grow and create new jobs in spite of the challenging environment for exports caused by the weakness of the eurozone,” said Howard Pridding, the federation’s chief executive. “The rising confidence of our members paints the picture of a resilient industry on the up, despite economic headwinds in challenging overseas markets. We want to see this continue in 2015 and for the government to get behind us even more with increased support for exporters and for apprenticeships.”

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