Citing an uncertain political climate during the coming election year and concerns over inventory challenges, marine dealers reported mixed feelings about sales during the coming winter boat shows, according to the latest monthly Pulse Report by the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas (MRAA).
Based on the responses from 68 dealers, a significant number (43%) said they expected the winter show sales to be roughly the same as the previous winter, while 34% expect sales at the shows will be weaker this year than last year, and 23% said shows should be stronger, the survey found.
“Trying to peg where sales will be next year is difficult,” said one responding dealer in the Pulse Report survey. “A lot of mixed news out there right now.”
Excess inventory was an even greater concern expressed in the survey conducted for MRAA by Baird Research. The vast majority said inventory levels were too high, while only 2% of respondents said inventory was low. “Inventory levels look to be in excess in many areas of the country, and this excess in inventory does not seem limited to just recreation segment,” said one retailer in the survey.
For the month of October, 44% of respondents reported retail declines, compared to only one-third who said they experienced monthly growth. A few dealers said October conditions were “terrible,” compared with early fall and October 2018. Another reported that sales were “stronger than last October,” but said that “customers still showed no signs of urgency.”
Many respondents said it was difficult to make future predictions given the uncertain political climate during the coming election year. A strong majority cited “government action/inaction” as the largest obstacle to success cited by dealers, followed by concerns about weather having a negative impact on their businesses.
On the brighter side, some dealers who responded to the survey said new marine products and promotions were helping them reduce excess inventory. Another dealer said year-end rebates were having a positive impact.
Other dealers, however, were not as optimistic. “Promotions are having less impact,” according to one dealer. “New-boat sales are getting tougher,” the dealer added, because manufacturers are reluctant to slow down production of 2020 inventory, despite the inventory backlog.