Rising tide in boat sales observed in St. Johns County

As many companies continue to struggle during the coronavirus pandemic, the boating industry has more than kept afloat.

With the public health crisis canceling many summer plans including camps, sporting events and vacations, boat dealers are seeing a spike in interest from people wanting to get out on the water and distance themselves. socially safe.

According to the National Marine Manufacturers Association, 70% of personal watercraft dealers reported significant sales growth in May, above the records previously set in July 2018. Used boat brokers also reported growth of 74%.

“New data indicates that many first-time boat buyers are investing in a boat to replace other summer traditions canceled due to the pandemic,” NMMA spokesman John-Michael Donahue said in a statement.

Branden Belloni, general manager of Waylen Bay Marine in St. Augustine, agrees with this assessment.

“We are certainly seeing a lot of first-time buyers allocating what would have been vacation money for toy motorbikes, recreational vehicles and yes, totally, boats,” Belloni said. “So sales are exploding. “

While Waylen typically keeps between 300 and 400 boats on its lot on State Road 207, Belloni said there are only around 30 to 40 left now, around 90% of its purchased inventory.

As one of the region’s largest watercraft dealers, Waylen does sales with customers in other parts of Florida, Alabama, and the rest of the Southeast.

“We are shipping boats all over the place because everyone is pretty much exhausted,” Belloni said.

This is the case at Atlantic Marine in St. Augustine where two of the seven boats in the field are under contract, according to Greg Sanders, store manager.

“We can’t get them in fast enough,” Sanders said.

Jack Wiles, sales manager for Atlantic Marine’s St. Augustine and Port Orange sites, said demand began to increase in March when the quarantine began. In April, May and June, the dealership recorded a “robust” increase in sales of 25%.

Wiles said that with the decline in manufacturing during the economic downturn, boat companies cannot keep up with incoming orders and are behind schedule.

Wiles said that while renting a boat in the past may have been more appealing to some water enthusiasts, “the property is hot now. It’s their boat and they can customize and equip it however they want.

Ownership doesn’t come cheap, however, and going on a boat with friends or family is another trend that dealers say they are seeing more and more these days.

While small pleasure craft can start at around $ 12,000, the average price of a new boat in 2019 was $ 45,000, according to NMMA statistics.

The very low price of fuel gas today at least saves on costs for this purpose.

Belloni said all he was hearing is that the trend shows no signs of stopping anytime soon, with 3-4% growth in boat sales expected over the next few years.

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