After struggling during the Great Recession, boat sales are rising again in the United States and southern Nevada.
Newly released data from the National Marine Manufacturers Association and its 2016 Recreational Boating Statistical Summary indicate that the $36 billion U.S. boating industry is at its strongest. high after the recession.
“The industry has grown 6% every year for the past four or five years,” said Thomas Dammrich, president of the association. “We haven’t fully returned to where we were before the recession, but we’ve been at our highest ever since.”
The resurgence is being felt in southern Nevada.
Candice Hayes, sales manager at Boating Lake Mead’s Dry Dock Boat Sales in Las Vegas, said the recession was one of the biggest challenges facing the family business.
“Our 50th anniversary was in 2007, and that was kind of the end of all that was great,” she said of the business, which started in 1957. “It was a lot of work…there were a lot of dealers across the country that didn’t get it.
Lately, however, Hayes has seen a major increase in boat sales. One of the most popular segments is tow boats, which can tow gear like wakeboards or water skis.
“We’ve been on the uptrend for the past two years, but this year was the biggest leap,” she said. “We are definitely at the top of where we were for the past 10 years.”
Similar trends can be found across the country, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association.
Sales of new powerboat units increased by 6% in 2016 and are expected to continue to increase at this rate throughout 2017 and 2018. New ski and wakeboard boats increased by 11.5% in 2016 , and jet boats increased by 8.7%. Yacht sales saw a 3.5% increase in sales, reaching 1,715 units in 2016.
Dammrich said the industry’s comeback can be attributed to high consumer confidence and low unemployment. While unit sales have yet to catch up, dollar sales in the boating industry have returned to a pre-recession high.
“All economic signals are confident,” Dammrich said. “It’s very likely that in 2017 we will be back at the pre-recession peak in terms of unit sales.”
Although baby boomers are still the main buyers of new boats, Dammrich said, younger generations are starting to invest in the market.
“We’re starting to see an increase in (Gen X) and Gen Y,” Dammrich said. “We expect to see both of these segments grow quite rapidly over the next decade.”
Dammrich said boat manufacturers are making changes to appeal to millennial buyers, 83% of whom have “a strong boating propensity.”
These changes make the boats easier to use, Dammrich said, with features like joystick docking, communication systems and more ways to integrate technology.
“You have manufacturers building boats with more outlets and USB ports for electronics,” he said. “Millennials won’t go anywhere without their electronics.”
According to the study, the fastest growing boats in popularity are pontoon boats, saltwater fishing boats, and ski and wakeboard boats.
Hayes said she has seen a shift from cruisers to sports boats in recent years at Dry Dock Boat Sales and attributes it to younger generations entering the market.
“Buyers have changed,” she said. “It used to be the parents. Now the tugs are driven by high-income millennials or Gen Xers, or they push their parents to buy it…whereas our typical buyer (at Dry Dock Boat Sales) doesn’t ain’t millennials, I think they’re definitely an influencer for the family.
Stuart Litjens, owner of Boulder Boats dealership in Henderson, said he’s seen a similar trend with his customers. Litjens said tugboats and pontoon boats have grown in popularity in recent years, with water sports like wake surfing boosting sales.
With boating, Litjens said, the whole family has something to do — whether you’re a parent who wants to ride and relax or a young family member who wants to wake up surfing.
“With boating, you’re all involved, you’re all together,” he said. “In that sense, it’s not uncommon for us to have a middle-aged professional family with younger kids who are brand new to the sport.”
While Nevada boat sales have closely tracked national levels of overall growth, the state is lagging in other areas.
Nevada was the 44th-ranked state for sales of new powerboats, engines, trailers and accessories in 2016, according to NMMA.
Hayes said that while their business sells year-round, the town just doesn’t have a big boating market.
“Las Vegas, obviously there’s a ton of things to do here. So boating is not a priority…there are not many places to go boating here,” she said.
Yet many still have an optimistic outlook for the Las Vegas boating industry. Nathan Yates, director of research at research and consulting firm Forward View, said in an email that Las Vegas offers a large, rare riverboat market with man-made reservoirs, excellent weather and an abundance of water. affluent buyers. For this reason, the market has growth potential with the domestic boating industry.
“We believe the boating industry will grow faster than the entire US economy by the end of the decade,” Yates said. “While demand for boats is at its post-recession high, sales remain below the likely cyclical peak…the RV and marine industries are strengthening.”
Hayes expects the growing trend in boat sales to continue.
“If you look at boat sales trends over the past 30 years, absolutely…I would definitely see that we’ve had a nice upward trend for a few years,” she said. “There’s a lot of ground to make up for.”