Summer of Change
View from the Pilothouse
This summer has been one for the books. A little scary, for sure, and definitely full of anxiety and uncertainty. I’ve learned a lot about remaining calm and taking things in stride, although running a business during these times has been nerve-racking. Fortunately, boating became one of those beneficial and acceptable ways to social distance, and because boaters have acted responsibly after the initial flurry of raft-ups and sandbar parties, we’re able to continue doing what we love most…getting out on the water.
Recreational boating has grown tremendously over the summer because it’s a good way to enjoy the outdoors without the crowds. The National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) reported that May’s recreational boat sales were the highest monthly total since 2007, and to follow suit, wholesale boat shipments (from builders) were up 60 percent in June compared to May. MarineMax reported a 20 percent revenue increase from the same period last year, and Nautical Ventures has shown a one-year increase of 233 percent. Roger Moore of Nautical Ventures said, “We had placed and received a healthy order for boats, tenders, and water toys with our various manufacturers before COVID, as it’s our philosophy to stock and warehouse inventory so we have boats in stock and available for immediate delivery. While the builders were temporarily closed, we still had lots of boats to sell, which allowed us to quickly transfer boats and merchandise among our five Florida dealerships.” The NMMA noted that fishing boats, jet boats, and personal watercraft lead the way in new-boat sales. That’s not to say the marine industry hasn’t taken a big hit because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but it’s promising that more people are getting into the lifestyle.
As we all know, the pandemic has put the kibosh on events around the country, including boat shows. Many are taking the virtual route, such as the International BoatBuilders’ Exhibition & Conference (IBEX), one of the largest shows for the latest marine technology, and many builders are opting for their own virtual boat shows, some even scheduling in-water shows by reservation only to control the flow. However, there are a few boat shows that are currently sticking with their plans. The Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show (FLIBS) is confident that the protocols they’ve put in place will keep staff, exhibitors, and visitors safe and healthy. FLIBS has developed AllSecure, standards that incorporate physical distancing (wider docks included), a contactless ticketing system, required face coverings, hygiene stations, and enhanced deep cleaning each day. I have to say, it’ll be interesting to see how it all plays out. It can be done, but a lot relies on everyone’s awareness, behavior, and caring. That goes without saying to contain the virus.
While thinking about all this, I remembered that one year from this September issue will be our 50th anniversary. Yep, September 2021 will be 50 years since my dad started Southern Boating. So much has happened throughout the years, and I look forward to many more, but in the meantime, we are planning to celebrate with fanfare. This is one boating industry business that plans to be around for another 50 years.