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US demand to be driven by economic recovery
The recreational boating industry, which includes boats, separately sold
propulsion systems, and related accessories, is recovering from the economic
downturn, which began in 2007 and lasted until mid-2009. The effects were harsh and
extended beyond the end of the recession because boating products are luxury
items. The market depends on strong consumer spending as well as reasonable
access to credit to both enable boat dealers to acquire inventory and allow
consumers to finance boat purchases. In the years since the downturn, credit has
begun to loosen, allowing for an influx in boat sales as purchasers relieve
By 2018, recreational boat demand will exceed 2013 levels, but will not yet
achieve pre-recession levels of demand. Advances in the recreational boating
market will be stimulated by the continued economic recovery manifesting in
accelerations in personal consumption expenditures and disposable personal
incomes, and rising spending on recreation and leisure. The aging used boat
fleet will also aid sales of new boats as more boat owners will be looking to
trade up. In order to grow further, the industry must also expand the potential
customer market by attracting women and minority participants who have been
traditionally underrepresented among boat owners.
Reaching other demographics is especially crucial as the large “baby boom”
generation transitions out of the target age range for boat buying, and the
generation that follows is smaller.
More versatile power boats among fastest growing types
In 2013, demand continued to reflect a recovery from the depths plumbed in 2010,
although still remaining well below pre-recession levels. The dominant boat segment will remain the traditional powerboat, which will see demand rising as
manufacturers continue to release more powerful and more efficient engine lines.
The boats helping to lead the industry away from its prior recessed levels will
include more versatile craft as consumers seek a boat that can fill multiple
roles. In some cases, the newer generations of engines have contributed to the
versatility of certain types. For instance, pontoons, which have been
historically known as floating patios, are increasingly available in versions
powerful enough to pull tubers or skiers.
PWC to benefit from entry-level market position
Sales of personal watercraft (PWC) will be aided by the fact that they are
relatively low cost, portable, and easy to operate compared to most other types
of boats. Typically seen as entry-level vessels that enable users to become
familiar with boating activities, PWC can eventually stimulate consumer interest
in trading up to a larger marine vessel. In contrast, demand for sailboats will
continue to be hampered by the aging population since these boats are more
physically demanding to operate.
South & West regions are key boating markets
Among the four US census regions, the South and the West are the largest and
fastest growing regional markets for boating products. In addition to
demographic and economic factors driving sales, both regions benefit from a generally mild
climate, long coastlines, a large number of inland waterways, and relatively
high participation rates in boating and fishing activities.
This upcoming Freedonia industry study, Recreational Boating, is available for
$5300. It presents historical demand data for 2003, 2008 and 2013, plus
forecasts for 2018 and 2023 by material, product and US regional market. The study also
considers market environment factors, details industry structure, evaluates
company market share and profiles 41 leading competitors in the US industry.