Beginner boaters lead the boat sales boom


More boaters than ever are going to the water this summer, and demand is being driven by new boat owners.

Last year, the market for boat and marine product sales jumped to $ 47 billion, up 9% year-on-year, while it is already up 30% this year. According to the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), new boat sales remain at high levels and dealers are selling new boats as quickly as they receive them at the start of peak boating season.

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“The coronavirus was the perfect place for boating because you could be alone, protected and socially distant,” FOX Business’s Jeff Flock told “Varney & Co” of FOX Business.

Part of what is driving growth within the boating industry is the increase in the number of first-time buyers of new and used boats. New data from NMMA reveals that 415,000 first-time boat buyers entered the market in 2020. Overall, these buyers are on average younger and 1.5 times more likely to be women than other groups of buyers.

“As the country returns to a new normal, people are reassessing how they spend their quality time with loved ones, and many continue to choose boating as their preferred choice in leisure time,” said the president of the NMMA, Frank Hugelmeyer, in a statement. “All signs point to boat demand and boat sales remain strong as more people discover the mental health benefits, joys and freedoms of being out and on the water . “

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Freedom Boat Club, a members-only boating club that offers unlimited use of boats in exchange for an annual fee, also saw its 2020 membership double compared to 2019.

The club’s membership model has grown by attracting not only an older population who is aging to no longer want to own their own boat but don’t want to quit boating altogether – but also among millennials.

“The boat club model in general does a good job of not only expanding participation in boating, but also diversifying it,” Cecil Cohn, president of the Freedom Boat Club, told FOX Business.

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One of the club’s missions is to expand and diversify participation in boating by providing a platform to command a ship in nearly 290 locations around the world, all without having to own a boat. Owned by the great boatbuilder Brunswick, the club charges initiation fees ranging from $ 5,000 to $ 7,000, with a monthly membership fee of $ 350 to $ 450.

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Kathleen Winter, a member of the Chicago branch of the Freedom Boat Club since 2019, told FOX Business that joining a membership-based club has allowed her and her husband to experience a range. different boats without having to deal with maintenance, upkeep costs and marina fees. that come with owning a boat. Passionate about boating herself, Winter told FOX Business that she has referred more young people to the platform who want to get into boating for the first time.

Other pleasure craft platforms are also gaining ground among boaters and especially young people.

Over the past year, Click & Boat, the leading online boat rental platform, has seen an increase in boat rentals in the US domestic market due to COVID-19 and travel restrictions.

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“As interest in boating continues to grow, we are also seeing an increase in the number of new boat owners looking to join the platform with professional and private owners,” said Camille DeLong, Marketing Manager in the United States, to FOX Business.

Meanwhile, Discover Boating, the industry resource center for those looking to get into boating, reported a 56% increase in traffic year-over-year through May. Although Millennials are the largest user segment, Gen Z traffic has increased as traffic from the 18-24 segment has skyrocketed by 90%. In addition, the number of women visiting the site is also up by 41%.

While the increase in boating activity has quickly become a pandemic tailwind, continued interest and demand is driving the industry in the long run.

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“Rental boat sales, new and used boat sales and the whole strategy have really peaked,” said Cohn of the Freedom Boat Club. “As vaccination rates rise and we move past the pandemic, there is growing optimism that the boating and marine industry and this ‘return to the great outdoors’ is here to stay.”

The boating boom is not without its setbacks. In addition to increasing demand, supply chain bottlenecks and a shortage of parts and supplies have suffocated the industry with backlogs and sticker shock.

“Inventories continue to be at an all-time low, customers wait weeks to get the boat they want,” John Adey, president of the American Boat and Yacht Council, told FOX Business. “Used boats are also a bonus.”

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Despite the obstacles that stand in the way, boating continues to be a top choice for recreation, according to Adey. Even the higher gas prices haven’t reduced the crowds. Plus, the new generation of boaters have overcome previous barriers to participation, including no experience or prior information about affordable equipment, according to the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation. Nevertheless, 94% of the new generation of boaters plan to continue sailing in the future.

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