Boating Industry

January 2016

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Page 30 of 43 January 2016 | Boating Industry | 31 BY CRAIG RITCHIE 10,940 units sold in 2005. "The saltwater fi shing segment has shown double-digit growth for the past three years, and I feel that's largely due to the incredible innovation that's been shown by the manu- facturers," notes NMMA president Thom Dammrich. "The product has evolved in order to align with the changing tastes of the buyers. Manufacturers have embraced the trend toward day-boating, and created more versatile boats with many more amenities than we used to see. They've successfully integrated a number of features that make the boats more appealing to families, while retaining that core ability to go out and fi sh seriously." At the core of this growth are center con- sole boats, which represent a full 54 percent of all saltwater fi shing boats sold, according to NMMA. The balance of the market is repre- sented by "other fi sh" types (mainly dual con- soles) representing 31.2 percent of the saltwater segment, followed by walkarounds represent- ing 10.4 percent, respectively. Flybridge sedans, convertibles and 24-foot-plus "open express fi sh" types round out the market, collectively splitting the remaining 4.4 percent of the salt- water fi shing category. "Center consoles are absolutely driving the market, no question" said Huw Bower, presi- dent of Boston Whaler. "We're very data-driven, we study the analytics closely. Any way we cut the data, it's the center console that's driving the activity. Walkarounds are also doing well, but it's the new center consoles that are really leading the way." Bower attributes the growing demand for center consoles to shifts in boater behavior. Where boaters once placed a premium on sleeping accommodations, the emphasis today has moved to making space for fi shing, water sports and other activities. "The phenomenon of day-boating is now clearly entrenched," said Bower. "We're just not seeing people overnighting in their boats like they used to. And that lends itself to the center console market. Take a 40-foot center console and over the course of the day, you use every square inch of that boat. It's such a versatile sport, cruising and fi shing platform. You can sit out in the sun, or you can sit under the top and enjoy the shade, but still be outside in the fresh air. You have a head compartment so the whole family can be comfortable, plus all sorts of new features that mean you don't have to give up having incredible comfort." So far, there's no sign of the market slowing down. Whether it's large center consoles, mid- sized walkarounds or smaller inshore boats, manufacturers are generally forecasting contin- ued growth over the next 18 to 36 months. RETAIL SALES ARE SAID TO HAVE GROWN BY A STAGGERING 34.8% "Center consoles are absolutely driving the market, no question." — Huw Bower, president of Boston Whaler With their plentiful space for fi shing, water sports and more, center consoles are driving the saltwater market.

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