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Boating Boom: Industry Trends We Saw in 2020

Posted on: February 13, 2021

Boating Boom: Industry Trends We Saw in 2020

Long story short: the US boating industry had an amazing year. 

We can’t say we were sad to see the sun set on 2020 though, and we’re already looking forward to next summer. Will life be getting back to normal by then? Only time will tell. At the very least we’ll be able to set out on the water to escape it all! 

In the meantime, however, let’s take a look back at the trends that propelled the boating industry forward in 2020. 

Recreational Boating Saw an Unexpected Surge 

Back in March, no one really knew how the pandemic would affect the boating industry. Only one thing was certain: manufacturing shutdowns would create supply chain delays and leave dealers with less inventory to sell. 

By late spring, it was clear that consumers were taking to the water in unanticipated numbers. Family-friendly attractions were closed, vacations were canceled, and everyone was actively discouraged, if not forbidden, from travelling far from home. Everyone seemed to realize simultaneously that the most common sense (and fun) way to get out of the house while staying socially distanced from other groups was to be out on the water in your own boat.

Dealers raced to keep up with this sudden rise in demand and prospective boaters had to search harder to find available stock. Inventory shortages combined with increased popularity of boating created a perfect storm — and the best year in sales the recreational boating industry has seen in a long time.

New Power Boat Sales Blew 2019 Out of the Water

New power boat sales increased across the board, but runabouts and pontoons showed some of the most significant increases in unit sales, according to Info-Link’s data, Year-over-year (YOY) changes were impressive, with 2020 vs. 2019 gains as high as 42.6% for runabouts and 44,9% for pontoons. 

While yachts and cruisers made up a smaller portion of power boat sales, they also saw a large YOY increase, especially in the late summer and early fall, Sales normally decline steadily after July, but in 2020 there were more yacht/cruiser sales in August than the month before, and August sales increased 57.4% from 2019. 

Other power boats, including freshwater fish, saltwater fish, and towboats, saw similar YOY increases as high as 30-45%. 

With that being said, if you’re interested or looking for more information about potentially owning a new boat — let’s just say, we know a guy. But seriously, our staff at Woodard Marine can and will answer any and all questions you may have. Just click here to speak to one directly.  

Boat Sales Reached Pre-Recession Numbers for the First Time

The 2008 Recession hit the boating industry hard, and sales nationwide still hadn’t fully recovered by 2019. According to Fortune, about 28,000 boats were sold nationwide in May 2020, finally overtaking the highest monthly numbers last seen in November 2007. Prior to the Recession, more than 300,00 boats were sold a year; this number dropped to around 180,000 after the Recession.

Figures climbed over the last several years until new units sold reached 243,309 in 2019. In 2020, that number rose to 258,866 — even with shutdowns in the spring and inventory shortages. (Data: Trade Only Today) Of course, these statistics are only for new boat sales; the numbers would be much higher if they took into account all of the used boats bought over the past year.

Speaking of used boats — if you’re new to boating, there is no better  (and economical)  way to get acclimated to this exciting new life than with a used boat from Woodard Marine. We scan over each and everyone with a fine-tooth comb while wearing white gloves. Okay, maybe that’s a little absurd. But what’s not absurd is how our staff makes sure that when a boat leaves our marina — whether new or used — we’re proud to put our Woodard family name on it, because we know it’s solid.  

To check our used inventory, just click here. 

The Selling Season Stretched into the Fall

While new power boat sales usually drop off significantly in October, over 10,000 more units were sold in October 2020 than October 2019, according to Info-Link, Since at least 2015 October power boat sales have seen slight but steady growth each year, but this fall saw a significant jump. 

The extended buying season is likely the result of inventory shortages, which prevented some customers from their boats leading up to or during the summer months. Instead, they took the seasonal decline in demand as the opportunity to purchase their boats ahead of time for the 2021 season. 

And this is neither a joke nor a sales tactic — our inventory is selling FAST.   If you’re looking to make sure this summer will be spent having fun and not being stuck inside — contact us today! 

First-Time Buyers Took to the Waters

Among those fleeing the cities for the clean air and serene waters of lakes were people who had never bought a boat before. In fact, according to Trade Only Today, 31% of new boats sold from January to September 2020 went to first-time buyers, a 26% increase from 2019. Even more amazingly, Trade Only Today points out that about 90% of 2020’s 26% increase in sales can be attributed to new boaters. If many of these first-time buyers had long-harbored dreams of owning a boat, it seems 2020 gave them the perfect excuse to finally take the plunge. 

Did we mention that our inventory is selling fast? 

More People Became Comfortable Buying Boats Online 

Whether they were buying new or pre-owned boats, more buyers were willing to order their boats online instead of going to showrooms or boat shows as they traditionally would. Even with the ever-increasing popularity of online shopping, consumers had previously been less comfortable making large purchases, like boats or cars, without seeing them in person first. 

Boating Became the Perfect Socially-Distanced Escape

We’ve been constrained by so much — stress, stay-at-home orders, travel bans — that it’s no wonder taking to the open water has sounded so appealing to so many people. New and experienced boaters alike chose spending time on the water as a safe, socially-distanced way to enjoy the summer months. Whether they towed their boats to new places or went out regularly on their local lake, boating became the perfect pastime in a summer of staycations. Consumers took the money they would have spent on vacations and put it towards investments in watercraft they can enjoy for years to come. 

Here at Woodard Marine, we’re grateful for the boaters who have come to us in search of their new adventure. We’re glad we’ve been able to provide our customers with the means to relax, unwind, get away from it all, and spend some quality time with their loved ones. 

How did you spend last summer? Trapped at home or out on the water? 

If you have a boat from Woodard Marina and used it this past year as your perfect getaway, we’d love to see your photos! Don’t forget to tag us on Facebook at @woodardmarineVT or Instagram at @woodardmarine. 

Don’t have a boat yet or need an upgrade? Don’t forget to browse our inventory of new boats while daydreaming about the warm summer months. 

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