Boat Business - 2020

Looks like major boating events for 2020 are cancelled or going to be soon. I spoke with Garmin tech support Thursday and they expect to continue working from home the rest of the year. Their participation in boat shows has been cancelled through Jan 1, 2021. National Marine Electronics Association (NMEA) canceled its annual conference schedule for Orlando in September and will now host a "virtual event" of unknown content.

IBEX, the most important tech event of the year for boating professionals, is still on but I doubt it is going to happen. A number of major players in the industry have already cancelled participation in any shows through Christmas. Normally, I am swamped with IBEX literature by now but so far only a single email that says the show is going to be held, at present.

I heard Tampa Boat Show has been cancelled. Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show (FLIBS) remains a huge, expensive question mark. A friend in the Keys tells me Florida corona rates are rising and that could be the ends of FLIBS for this year.

NMEA and ABYC have put all training online. This is long overdue and now makes our certifications available worldwide. Both organizations are giving webinars on a regular basis but ABYC is doing an exceptionally great job. We have a tech webinar at least once a week and these are then posted on you tube - a phenomenally valuable resource for boaters.

Regarding boat sales, there was a lot of speculation back in March that the retail and after market for boat sales was going to crash. Prices have remained fairly steady but there are far fewer boats up for sale than normal for this time of year. The new boat market has been kicked in the teeth. Yacht sales on vessels 41-65 ft decreased 67% in March 2020 compared to March 2019. New sailboat sales were down over 50% for the same period. Considering the monohull sailboat market has been decreasing by close to double digits or more annually for the past decade, you have to wonder what is keeping Beneteau, Catalina, and a few others afloat. Production and sales are down for every boat type but pontoon boats seem to be most resilient.

One last word on supply. The vitally important East Penn battery factory is working at greatly reduced staff and output. This is making itself felt in the supply chain. I am finding it takes longer than usual to get a battery and often I cannot get exactly what I want. I have been warning customers there is no end in sight. Distributors are pulling stock off the shelves in cold northern locales to supply demand in Florida. This cannot go on much longer. If you need gear get it when and where you can because in some instances we are running out.