A rising tide lifts boat sales in the region

Hans Steiner, owner and co-founder of Hans’ Boat Works, stands in his backyard which currently stores around 120 boats. Steiner has been in the boating industry since he was young and has 38 years of experience in the industry. Photo by Frank Lopez

published on July 17, 2019 – 13:15
Written by Frank Lopez

With rising temperatures, out-of-school children, and proximity to many parks and lakes, the Central Valley is a prime location to experience a classic American summer.

Wetter weather, coupled with a booming economy, has sparked greater interest in boating among Central Valley residents, and area boat dealers are in their busiest season.

Boating in America, along with many other industries, boomed in the 1950s, although gasoline shortages, luxury taxes, and recessions in later decades hurt the industry, it’s still a popular pastime for hobbyists and families, and sales have increased.

Hans Steiner is the owner and co-founder of Hans’ Boat Works in Visalia, which he started with his wife in 2002. He worked at a boat dealership for 20 years prior.

“Sales are steadily increasing. We had a big drop in 2007-2008, but since then there’s been a pretty steady increase,” Steiner said. “A lot of things were sold at low prices at that time [recession years], new and used. It took until around 2010 for this to clear up, and it also wiped out a good chunk of the boating industry. We’ve lost about 50% of our dealerships, so the dealerships that are here are probably the most successful in running their stores and their business, so those are the ones that have taken off since then.

One of the current trends driving higher prices is the changing preference for water sports.

Steiner said water skiing has given way to wake boarding, and now more people are interested in wake surfing, which requires a bigger boat with a bigger motor.

Over the past eight years, pontoon boats, a flat-bottomed boat supported by air-filled structures, have seen more sales as baby boomers who have been waterskiing in previous years are aging and not are no longer as capable of watering. ski.

Top-selling brands at Hans Boat Works are MasterCraft, Harris and Ranger Boats.

Steiner said boat sales are strong in the Central Valley, especially with so many boating resources available and places to go boating.

Han’s Boat Works has placed orders for customers in states other than California, as well as Australia.

Even though people buy new boats of different varieties – fishing boats, speedboats and pontoons – people also bring in boats for repairs and restoration.

A used boat in good condition can cost between $10,000 and $15,000. Some of the higher end speedboats can cost upwards of $225,000.

Due to the odd weather this year, with cooler than average weather in March and April, Steiner said the busy season started a bit later as the weather started to warm up.

Steiner said he plans to expand by opening another dealership, either in Visalia or another town in the Central Valley.

At the Boat Shoppe in downtown Fresno, owner and founder Bruce Marion said that although his store was only about 6 years old, sales had yet to plateau and he was seeing more sales. every year since the boat repair shop opened.

Even though Marion said sales have increased in recent years, the industry is concerned about the lack of millennial participation.

“The average age of a boater is around 64 or 67,” Marion said. “It is an old economic engine. These are people who own a home, who have discretionary income. They can afford to go boating. For the marine industry to continue to grow, there needs to be more young people interested in nature and boating.

Another factor that might scare people off is the higher price of boats, with a price tag of “$40,000 or $60,000 for something you’re going to use for 40 hours a year.”

According to the National Marine Manufactures Association, annual sales of boats, marine products and services in the United States totaled $39 billion in 2017, an increase of 7% from 2016. Sales in California totaled 718 million, up 14% from 2016.

Marion said The Boat Shoppe is booked through July, and has been since January, and due to the wetter season this year, there is a lot of interest in restoring old boats.

Marion has been boating since he was a child and built his first boat with his father when he was 13 years old. When he was younger, Marion said boating and RVing was a popular hobby that many people on discretionary income took up.

For starters, Marion said you can buy a well-maintained boat for around $5,000.

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