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July 28, 2020

Boating Industry CanadaFirst, we want to thank everybody who has taken the time to complete this survey. We had a total of 144 respondents and the thing that is most clear is how widely diversified our industry really is!

We wanted to do this survey because we have been hearing that busines is booming and we wanted to understand more about that.

The survey results indicate dramatic differences in business results from one area to another, from one type of dealer to another and particularly, based on the type of products they sell.

The very first response we got was an email that came in from a large and well-established marina dealer who sells a wide range of boats. His comment was that we should have broken out different sizes and types of boats. He told us that, “Sales of boats up to 150 K are up, but the boats over 500K are hard to sell. Personal watercraft (Yamaha in my case) are totally sold out “.

Obviously, no one had planned their inventory orders expecting a global pandemic, nor a reaction like having so many people changing their plans to vacation at home. Product shortages of all types and at all levels have likely suppressed potential sales.

When asked “Are you experiencing any supply disruption or product shortages”, 78.99% said yes, they were.

We were really asking how mid-season sales were doing and at the extremes, we learned that 19.58% reported being down -25% or more yet 17.48% reported being up +25% or more and 9.79% reported flat results compared to same time in 2019.

Regionally, 28.47% of the respondents were from BC, 52.08% were from Ontario, 5.56% from Quebec and small percentages from the other provinces.

We asked what products or services they sold:

55.24% BOATS
41.26% ENGINES
72.03% PARTS & ACCESSORIES
55.94% REPAIRS
27.97% SLIP RENTALS
16.08% BOAT RENTALS

We also asked “What are your sales expectations for the remainder of 2020 compared to the same time in 2019?”. Perhaps the most interesting number is that 19.72% are expecting their future sales levels to be flat vs 2019. Those anticipating that their sales will be up over 2019 levels measured 40.13% while those expecting lower levels totaled 40.14%; basically a dead heat between gainers and decliners.

A simple final question may have provided us the most valuable measure. We asked, “Are you doing any advertising / marketing in 2020 that is significantly different from your 2019 program?” Just 32.17% were doing anything different while 67.83% were doing the same thing as in 2019.

CONCLUSIONS

Clearly COVID-19 has had a range of effects on the marine market in Canada; some quite significant:

Had product been more readily available, we might have seen many more enjoying sales increases.

Plainly, the closed Canada / USA border is hammering places where cross-border boating / cruising is a big factor, particularly the Great Lakes and West Coast.

It seems certain that boating is a great solution to the COVID-19 restrictions and so demand is strong for boats and accessories (just as we have heard that the demand for waterfront cottages is also very high).

So, given the apparent increase in demand for boats and accessories, why are only 32.17% of the survey respondents planning to do any advertising or marketing different from what they did in 2019? There does seem to be big demand for boats and accessories yet, the industry doesn’t seem prepared to seize the opportunity – or to boost their share of it.

Final thought – commitments like cottage purchases and investments in boats are for the long term and the impact of COVID-19 will likely make lasting changes in our lives and our behaviors. It makes sense to gear up now, to gain market share while the market is growing.

Andy Adams - Editor