Coronavirus drives wave of boat sales in central New York City

Syracuse, NY – Boat dealers in central New York City are benefiting from a rising tide in sales, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.

Dealers say people who canceled travel plans this summer due to the pandemic are buying boats at an all-time high. Pool dealers reported a similar increase in sales.

Bill Newcomb, owner of Owasco Marine in Auburn, said his sales rose 30% to 40% in May and increased by a similar amount so far in June, helping his business recover quickly from a two-month state-ordered shutdown caused by the pandemic.

“A quarter to a third of people who come in here tell me they weren’t planning on buying a boat five months ago,” Newcomb said. “But because of Covid, they don’t want to go to Disneyland and they’re not going to put their kids on planes. Boating is something the family can do and feel safe, so they are going to buy a boat.

Sales have been so dynamic across the industry that inventory is dwindling everywhere, Newcomb said.

“I get calls from all over the country,” he said. “I had a guy call me from Colorado. He said he was willing to pay for a boat to be transported to Colorado.

He said he didn’t complete the sale because he wanted to reserve whatever inventory he had left for local buyers.

Jay Lorenz, general manager of Smith Boys in Brewerton, said his boat sales had increased 140% this year.

“Everyone is tired of being home,” said Lorenz, who is also president of the Boating Industries Association of Upstate New York. “Instead of spending $ 5,000 to $ 7,000 on vacation, if they live on a lake or near a lake, they’re going to take their vacation money and put it on a boat.”

Denise Demperio, director of J&S Marine in Baldwinsville, said she sold eight boats all last year and sold eight this week.

“Yesterday I had customers standing all around me who wanted to test boats,” she said. “It was crazy.”

Jack Heins, of Baldwinsville, approached J&S Marine to sell a fast open bow boat and buy a slower pontoon “party boat” that could hold more people. He said a party boat would better suit his plans to spend more time on the water this summer.

“Due to the pandemic you are really a bit limited,” he said. “I play bagpipes and all parades are canceled this summer, so I have a lot more free time. My wife has just retired. We usually go to Florida for two weeks in July, but we’re not going to do that this year.


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Rick Moriarty covers business news and consumer issues. A tip, a comment or a story idea? Contact him at any time: E-mail | Twitter | Facebook | 315-470-3148

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