Interest in boating gaining
By Jane Beathard
There are signs the U.S. economy is improving as retail sales for recreational boats and accessories increased by 6 percent in 2011, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association.
The recreational boating industry has not seen an increase in retail sales since 2006 and the beginning of the Great Recession.
Leading the recovery are sales of aluminum power boats — mainly small fishing boats and pontoons. Those sales were up 4 percent last year. More than 77,000 aluminum power boats were sold in the U.S. in 2011.
The association believes 2011 figures are the result of pent-up demand for boats, following years of diminished willingness to spend by consumers, as well as improved credit availability and consumer confidence.
Data shows the recreational boating industry continues to be predominantly comprised of small boats. Ninety-five percent of the 12.4 million registered boats in the U.S. in 2011 were 26 feet or less in length. Small boats are more portable and easier to handle as opposed to larger power boats that must be docked at a marina.
The size of boats Americans buy is directly related to their income levels. Eighty-three percent of all boat owners in the U.S. in 2011 had an annual household income of less than $100,000.
Looking toward the future, the association says 237.7 million U.S. adults are actively engaged in shopping for a boat in 2012. That’s a 10 percent increase from 2010.