The National Marine Manufacturers Association announced earlier this month that U.S. retail sales for recreational boats, accessories and marine services are booming. Those sales have increased from 2010 to 2011 by 6 percent — to $32.3 billion — while new powerboat and sailboat retail sales increased 0.8 percent to 214,405. Boating participation increased 10 percent to 83 million from 2010 to last year.
“We’re up over 100 percent (in sales) one year to date,” said Brad Huffman, sales manager at Skipper Bud’s in Grand Haven. “New boat sales have made a comeback and that was not the case a few years ago.”
Recreational boating pours an estimated $72 billion annually into the country’s economy. But it has not seen an increase in retail sales since 2006, according to the association.
“The new data signals the beginning of a recovery for the U.S. recreational boating industry,” said Thom Dammrich, the association's president.
Leading the sales recovery are aluminum powerboats — primarily fishing and pontoon boats — which were up 4 percent in 2011. Michigan ranked the third highest in total retail sales, selling 454 million boats, an increase of 29.5 percent from 2010.
“Pent-up demand for boats following years of diminished willingness to spend by consumers, improved credit availability for buyers and boating businesses, positive shifts in consumer confidence, and an overall interest in the benefits of the boating lifestyle are steering the industry toward recovery,” Dammrich said. “Americans’ passion for enjoying the boating lifestyle is taking precedent as they put aside concerns about the economy in favor of creating lifelong memories with loved ones.”
Huffman, who has worked in the boating industry for 25 years, agreed.
“I think America is tired of sitting on the sidelines,” he said. “… They’re tired of not having some fun and they’ve had enough.”
To read more of this story, see Saturday’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.