Recession's wake doesn't scare Delaware boaters out of water

May 2011 News

As his customers shied away from luxury items amid a global economic downturn, Ted Link said, he made a business decision to give up selling new boats.

But Link, of Link's Marine in Newark, said he's been able to sustain his business with service, which has held steady.

That connects with the conclusions of the National Marine Manufacturers Association, which last week reported that the industry saw a decline in new boat sales last year, but an increase in participation in recreational boating.

People who already owned boats were spending more on them, the group reported.

Spending per boat increased six percent from 2009, and after-market accessory sales also increased by six percent, the group reported.

The association estimated that 32.4 percent of American adults participated in recreational boating in 2010, up 14 percent from 2009, and the highest level since 1999.

But overall power- and sailboat sales decreased by 4 percent, the group said. New-boat sales fell by 10 percent.

Within the new-boat market, small fishing and water-sport boats did best, declining by 4 percent.

The industry, said association president Thom Dammrich, "remains alive and well," showing that boating is still "a recreational activity Americans aren't willing to forgo in times of economic recession," even in a time when fuel prices are rising rapidly.

Don Short, owner of Short's Marine in Long Neck, said he's seeing a trend of customers trying to downsize to smaller boats, especially those who owe more on the boat than than it's worth.

Pontoon boats, he said, are becoming more popular.

Sales and service are flat over last year, Short said. But certain segments, like the higher end, tend to be coming back a little stronger, he said.


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