Survey: Marine industry adding inventory, expects sales gains

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In light of an improving consumer outlook, more than half of marine industry survey participants say now is the time to increase inventory levels to be fully stocked for the spring selling season.

That’s according to results released by GE Capital, Commercial Distribution Finance, which reported that 51 percent of respondents said it was the best time for dealers to increase inventory.

GE Capital's survey was conducted Feb.13-15, according to The Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch. The respondents are a variety of marine industry participants, including manufacturers, dealers and distributors.

"Overall, our data indicate sales are improving, costs are down and earnings are up at the dealer level," Bruce Van Wagoner, president of CDF's marine group, told the paper. "We believe that 2013 will look a lot like 2012 — slow and steady growth in a smaller, healthier market."

Forty-three percent of survey respondents said they expect sales to increase 5 percent to 10 percent this year, and 30 percent said they expect sales to increase 10 percent to 15 percent.

CDF's forecast, unveiled Feb. 13 at the Miami International Boat Show, calls for the marine industry to grow about 8 percent in the United States in 2013. "Of course, positive news on some of the most critical economic factors could kick up consumer demand and drive industry performance beyond current expectations," Van Wagoner said.

Forty-two percent of survey respondents said consumer demand was their greatest business concern, down from 64 percent in 2012.

Asked which trend will have the largest impact on the boating industry this year, 32 percent of respondents pointed to the popularity of low-cost or "base" models, up from 23 percent last year. Thirty percent of respondents expect long production lead times, compared to 21 percent last year.

Aluminum boats, fiberglass fishing boats and recreational boats are the top three types, respectively, that the industry believes will be in demand this year.

"Low stocking levels may result in lost sales, but today shipments are generally aligned with demand," Van Wagoner said. "Many dealers ask for market intelligence to make better-informed decisions about brand, segments and stocking levels so they can be sure to stock the products that their customer base wants to buy."

Click here for the full WSJ story.