I’ve never really been into video games, but if there was a reset button on 2020, I’m thinking a lot of us would sure love to hit it right about now. Actually, on second thought, I’m not sure we would really want to relive this year after all.
However, there is a different type of reset that I noticed during this extremely unusual pandemic year and that’s a reset of our priorities. When our lives were dramatically altered in March, things really could have gone one of two ways for the boating industry.
Consumers were either going to hunker down in their basements or they were going to take advantage of extended family time and get outdoors. Fortunately for our industry, it was the latter. And not only were families wanting to get outdoors and spend more time together while social distancing, they also wanted to go boating.
Suddenly dealer lots were picked bare as manufacturers struggled to build boats fast enough to keep up with the new demand. Plus, boats were harder to find than a roll of toilet paper after manufacturers were forced to shut down production for several weeks for safety reasons.
Normally by July those planning to buy a boat have already done so or have made the decision just to wait for the next model year. But in 2020 the demand was so high that even with half the summer gone – ahem, sorry; the optimist in me meant…with half the summer [left] – consumers kept buying. This led to some manufacturers delaying production of their 2021 models just so they could keep building boats to give their dealers a little more inventory. In the end it meant a very good summer for boat sales.
According to Statistical Surveys Inc., boat registrations soared in July to a 4.1 percent increase year-to-date in all categories, and 25.2 percent year-over-year. Pontoons especially had an excellent month, with a 53.3 percent increase in registrations year-over-year and 8.3 percent year-to-date.
When talking with dealers around the country I discovered an interesting tidbit of information. Some dealer showrooms were not only low on new models, but also low on used boat inventory as well. People who could find a boat to buy weren’t trading in an old one because in a lot of cases it was because the boat they were buying was their first.
During this pandemic when our priorities were reset, seasoned boaters simply just spent more time on the water than their schedules would allow in a normal year. But others with a better perspective on how to spend their time were choosing to become first-time boat owners to take advantage of what the rest of us already know: boating is a great way to spend your time and a fun way to bring the family closer together.
With a little more inventory on hand, there’s no telling just how high boat registration numbers overall could have been if there hadn’t been some supply chain issues. The good news is 2021 is on the horizon and new models are being created. Even when things start returning to normal again, I just hope we’re able to keep our new priorities from changing back. The reset in our thinking, which led to more family time, might just be the best thing that came from this pandemic.