Why the Boating Industry's Boom Could Carry on for a Long Time

Marco Bello | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Boating is booming.

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic left many Americans stuck at home, boating was on the rise. The boom has been fueled in part by innovations that make boats easier to use, new models of drawing customers — such as boat clubs and subscriptions — and a push to attract a broader swath of the American population.

The U.S. boat market bottomed right after the financial crisis. In 2010, there were just shy of 178,000 boats sold in the U.S., totaling about $27.3 billion dollars, according to data from the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

But since 2012, the industry has been in growth mode. Total boat sales hit 286,000 units in 2018, NMMA data shows.

The industry, along with many others, at first took a hit as the pandemic began last year. However, a spate of supercharged demand followed. New boat sales then hit a 13-year high of 318,550 units in 2020, according to the NMMA.

"I think the sustainability of this of this demand spike amongst amongst voting has surprised a lot of people. To be honest, it surprised me a little bit, but I think it shows you the staying power that boating has," Raymond James analyst Joe Altobello said.

Boat buying is, in a lot of ways, a word-of-mouth business. Someone sees a friend or neighbor's boat and decided to buy one as well. So for every customer brought into the market, there is a circle of people around the buyer who may convert into customers.

There also could be an upgrade cycle in the next few years, where boat buyers now might be thinking of upgrading, Altobello said.

"We think actually, this demand spike does have legs and will sustain itself for the next next couple of years," he said.

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