By: Scott Way
CBC recently interviewed several experts in the outdoor recreation industry for an episode of 'The National' TV series, and good news is abound on the marine front. The surge in sales and growth is expected to continue in North America well into 2021.
The biggest economic hit so far from the coronavirus pandemic came in March when the outdoor industry, and the economy at large, came to an abrupt halt precipitated by the shutdown of global manufacturing and distribution. Both long and short term stock market data, marine industry sales, and the projected outlook were grim, at best. Surprisingly, by late May things began to turn around, and the marine industry began to voice a positive outlook on the impending summer season. That's not to say there wasn't some turmoil, however, as some growing competitors altered their business structure significantly while other longstanding players exited altogether.
Now, with some indicators of economic stability settling in (as much it can be expected under the circumstances), the industry continues to forge ahead confidently into the latter half of 2020. Everything from powerboats, to RV's, to paddlesports is experiencing record sales, and the projected demand is likely to last through the remainder of 2020 and into 2021. The biggest issue now becomes inventory availability as manufacturers struggle to make up for lost time and acquire raw materials needed to build products. Several marine manufacturers halted or pivoted their manufacturing to produce PPE, and lingering issues like potential tariffs on aluminum exports could still have a significant impact.
Coupled with the demand for inventory, the growing necessity for domestic travel and tourism caused by international travel restrictions is having its effect. The U.S border remains closed to Canadians for non-essential travel, while the majority of international flights are either restricted or experiencing a dramatic lull due to COVID-19 related apprehension. According to the latest NMMA (National Marine Manufacturer's Association) surveys, North American tourism-based revenue is down 54% largely due to travel restrictions, while new boat sales were up 59% in May compared to April, and up 9% from 2019. PWC sales in June were up 41% from a year ago, and jet boat sales in May were up 31% from a year ago. The RV industry, meanwhile, where first-time buyers are being projected as high as 80% of 2020 sales, and where manufacturing is firmly anchored in the American Midwest and reliant upon raw material imports, is being forced evaluate how it can meet the demand.
In essence, people in Canada and the U.S are spending their leisure time within their borders, and that means more travelers are seeking out new experiences by land and water. Barring another significant change in the greater socio-economic landscape, you can expect to see busy highways full of RV's and launch ramps ripe with new boaters as the 2020 season carries on.
Check out the interview below from CBC's 'The National' as they interview several marine industry professionals including Brad Parker from Monaro Marine in Richmond, British Columbia and Chris Perera from BoatDealers.ca in Kingston, Ontario to discuss the state of the marine industry and the outlook for 2021 (full disclosure- BoatBlurb.com is under the BoatDealers.ca ownership umbrella).