Boating Industry Canada

Apr 28, 2020

First, we want to thank the 449 people who responded to the survey we ran on April 17th asking a series of questions regarding the industry’s response to COVID-19. Last week we provided some initial data starting with 70% reporting sales down 30% or worse. To carry on, 42% said they were taking orders online, and a similar percentage were operating on shortened hours. Half were doing deliveries or curb-side pickup and sadly, some 45% had laid off staff.

This week we are reporting on the 190 additional Comments that respondents shared with us and there were some significant entries in the list.

Social Distancing

The most frequently mentioned topic was Social Distancing and how their business was dealing with that new requirement. It’s remarkable how different the marine businesses all are when you read the comments. I feel like there are no two the same, but it seems that everyone understands the need for  Social Distancing. The application of that varies from place to place and from one business to another but broadly, everyone seems to be trying to meet the requirements and a good many are plainly working hard to exceed them.

Concern for their employees was a top priority with many commenting that they are maintaining employment while doing Social Distancing. That will be very costly for some businesses, but it may be that paying the staff during this difficult time is an important investment in the future. Good people are hard to find. Incidentally, only a few respondents mentioned the government supports.

Some of the most significant open comments were:

“…concerned that there will even be a boating season this year.”

“gone bankrupt”


“…hoping for the best but preparing for the worst”

“Trying to survive”

“…we had clients cancel and back out of deals due to COVID-19”

“Trying to survive with millions in unsold inventory and not allowed to open”.

Those were the worst of the responses, but there was no sunshine to balance things off. Just a few said they were OK. Shipping and deliveries were mentioned as issues and a few noted that their suppliers were shut down. One said, “Shipping is a pain!”


Six respondents mentioned applying for, or seeking to get the Government Support that has been offered, but two had tried unsuccessfully and only one said they had gotten any help.

For our industry, it’s important to note that one respondent said several of their employees were family members and that they were worried they would not qualify for help. You have to wonder how many businesses in the marine industry actually rely on family members. It might be quite a few.


Using online and digital solutions were specifically mentioned by 28 respondents, although almost all these businesses seem to be using online and digital routes to communicate with both their staff and their customers. Virtual Showrooms, virtual boat demos and virtual showings support Social Distancing while keeping the business going for many.

One respondent said they were, “Letting customers know we are flexible and are prepared to work with them, however necessary through this pandemic”.

That positive and “can-do” kind of attitude may be the best route to success.  Many respondents talked about reaching out to customers via email and their websites. Communicating is clearly valuable during this time of uncertainty.  It was also encouraging to hear six respondents specifically mention they were keeping up their advertising as well. That puts a positive face on the situation.


To gain a direct comparison and identify any trends or changes, we will deploy this survey again on May 1st to get a second wave of data.

We hope you will again take the time to respond to the Survey and again, we will share any trends in the data or changes in the comments.

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