After navigating through rough waters for several years, the marine industry is beginning to push forward on the throttle, according to survey results released today by GE Capital, Commercial Distribution Finance (CDF).
More than one-third of respondents (38%) expect sales to increase up to 5% in 2011, and 54% said that the best time for dealers to increase inventory levels is now.
"The marine industry is starting to see signs of recovery as we move past the recession," said Jeff Malehorn, president and CEO of CDF. "Through our 40 years in the marine industry, we've seen many cycles and we're optimistic about the years ahead."
Not surprisingly, sales of lower-ticket items are rebounding faster than those of bigger-ticket items. Forty percent of survey respondents expect growth to be led by sales of aluminum boats, followed by recreation boats (17%). In contrast, boats of 30 feet or more were the strongest-selling segment during the market's peak in 2007.
"Dealers are beginning to order new inventory, but they continue to be cautious," noted Bruce Van Wagoner, president of the CDF Marine Group. "At the same time, manufacturers want to be sure their dealers have the right product mix so everyone is focused on smart growth. They're all paying close attention to remaining aged product, dealer credit availability and inventory turns, among other metrics."
Nearly 70% of the responding marine dealers and manufacturers believe that the biggest hurdle facing the boating industry this year is consumer demand, and 40% said a reduced level of showroom and field inventory is the trend that will have the largest impact on the industry this year.
The survey of 53 marine dealers and manufacturers was conducted Feb. 16 at the "Access GE Industry Roundtable" event at the Miami International Boat Show. Respondents included marine dealers and manufacturers.