In response to declining sales, manufacturers began to place more emphasis on building boats only when dealers ordered them to reduce inventory.
“Last year, dealer inventory was quite thin,” said association president Thom Dammrich. He added that they will likely increase inventory after a strong 2011.
“This year I think there will probably be more boats available in stock, but you’ll still have to buy it now if you want it to be available in the spring,” he said.
Boat sales last year were boosted by improving economic conditions, including consumer confidence and the housing market, as well as growing interest in recreational boating and newer boat designs. affordable. While these trends are expected to continue, the destruction of Sandy should also boost sales.
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The storm destroyed or damaged more than 65,000 recreational boats, resulting in losses of around $650 million, according to the US Boat Owner’s Association – the worst since the group began tracking in 1966.
The increase in traffic that dealers have reported seeing so far because of Sandy is not unprecedented.
“If you look at Hurricane Katrina in 2005, we saw sales in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi increase about 30% for new boats and boat parts and accessories,” Dammrich said.
Boat show season kicks off
At the Progressive New York Boat Show, dealers and potential buyers, still reeling from Sandy’s damage, browsed through the latest offerings. Dealers rely on these events to drive business, as typically 40-60% of sales result from orders at, or leads from, boat shows.
One such visitor, Jim Gennosa, an electrician from Oceanside, NY, came to the show with friends to view the boats after one of his own was lost during the storm.
“The biggest was a 33ft Coastal Wellcraft, and we pulled it out of the water the night before the storm, we thought it would be safer on land, but we found out the next day, the marina, all the docks and half the building was gone,” Gennosa said. “So the boat was destroyed. We found it in someone’s yard about half a mile away.”
Gennosa’s other boat, a 25-footer he’s owned for more than two decades, was tied to a floating dock behind his house and weathered the storm well.
Since Gennosa’s insurance company has already reimbursed him for his destroyed boat, he is once again looking for a new boat.
“I’m looking for another bigger one,” he said. “If I can get a good deal – a really good deal – I’ll buy one. If I can’t, I’ll wait.”
Deal hunters like Gennosa are in luck. To boost sales, manufacturers are offering a wide range of incentives, according to dealers in the sand-stricken Northeast.
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“Some of them, we’re doubling the cash incentives,” said Matthew Barbara, MarineMax regional president for the New York region. “Some of them, we give slips. We just try to be as creative as possible.”
Although MarineMax didn’t make a profit from 2009 to 2011 due to high inventories and high expenses, Barbara said she was able to halt “the decline” last year as consumer confidence sagged. was improving. But he said the lack of paychecks for some customers was a problem.
The waiting game
For boat owners who have yet to receive insurance checks, the incentives may not be enough to trigger a sale. Although Barbara said his business has yet to see a boost for Sandy, he predicts there will be an upside down the road once people settle their claims.
“A lot of them are still waiting for reports on their boat’s condition to come back from surveyors and for them to get their settlements from insurance companies,” Curry said.
For those whose boats are not totaled, Curry foresees many headaches from an increase in repair orders.