City of Morehead, North Carolina – North Carolina boat vendors are saying, more than ever, that people want to get out on the water since COVID-19 arrived in the state. It is to the point, they said, that they are struggling to keep up with demand.
Industry is one of the few business sectors in the state to have developed since the start of the pandemic.
“Boat sales are exploding right now,” said recent buyer Steve Jackson.
For decades, North Carolina families have vacationed in towns like Morehead City along the state’s Crystal Coast, and for over 30 years Bill Rixey has been there selling them boats. But the last 12 months of sales have been unlike anything he’s ever seen.
“Extraordinary, I think, is probably the best word,” Rixey said. “If you were to look at any dealership in town, I think the numbers are probably up at least 50%.”
Rixey said in a normal year he would have up to 25 boats on his lot at a time. But these days, customers buy them as soon as they arrive.
“It’s amazing. I mean, the custom makers that we have, who are local to our area, these boats are far from being,” Rixey said. “[A wait of] two, three years is not uncommon. “
The recovery was not limited to North Carolina.
Blake Stephenson, originally from Raleigh, sells yachts in Annapolis, Maryland. Stephenson told WRAL News that a combination of increased demand and supply chain issues from the pandemic has pushed boat builders nationwide.
“Everything has been crazy. No manufacturer can keep up,” Stephenson said. “They’re saved so far, it’s a nightmare trying to get boats for anyone.”
Those who bought boats during the pandemic said the surge in sales made sense as families were spending a lot more time together and they were flocking to socially distant ways to do so.
“People want to run away,” Jackson said. “They just don’t want to be locked in their homes anymore, and it’s a good way to isolate themselves from others in general.”
The sellers said that even when the worst of the pandemic is over, they hope the trend continues.
“That family dynamic has changed. I think our business will continue to be strong for a while,” said Rixey.