Boating Industry

January 2016

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Page 35 of 43 36 | Boating Industry | January 2016 MARKET FOCUS SECTION { BOAT CLUBS } BY BRIANNA LIESTMAN In order to get new boaters involved in our industry, it seems that all we need to do is open the door and invite them in. If that is the case, boat clubs and boat sharing are the surrounding gate that gets these potential consumers closer to the end goal of ownership. That first experience, when boaters are "hooked" into the lifestyle, is the aim of ev- eryone in the boating industry. After that, boating sells itself. Boat clubs and sharing models have the same aim but offer an entry point for those who do not have the means to afford a new boat immediately. "It's getting that first experience that I think is so critical for the industry that plat- forms like Boatbound help people do," said Chris Oetting, director of business develop- ment at Boatbound. Boat clubs and boat sharing models also help open the door to a younger audi- ence. According to Boatsetter CEO Jaclyn Baumgarten, over 60 percent of its site visi- tors are under the age of 44. This is lower than the average age of boat buyers across all categories, according to data from Info- Link Technologies. (Further data on the average age of boat buyers can be found in the 2015 Market Data Book.) "It's a shift in mindset and it's really a gateway for getting younger people into boating," said Baumgarten."We are focused on bringing in that younger demographic and creating great memories and experi- ences for them out on the water, which will encourage them to continue to seek out on-water experiences and eventually buy a boat themselves." Boat sharing models allow owners to offset the costs associated with maintaining a boat, which is critical as affordability re- mains a significant obstacle for the industry. "With one or two rentals a month, it covers their slip fees, it can cover their fuel costs, it can cover their maintenance costs, and it can help people think about getting into boating because now they know they can offset the cost of ownership when they Uncharted territory Boat clubs, sharing models enter strategic partnerships, grow industry go to buy that boat," said Baumgarten. "At its core, what we're trying to do is make boating far more accessible and affordable on both sides of the relationship – from people who want to get out on boats and people who want to own boats." John Giglio, president and CEO of Free- dom Boat Club, believes boat clubs have become, in the overall life cycle of boating, the new "entry-level boat" that allows cus- tomers to truly find what they want – not something they think might be the right fit. By partnering with dealers and manufactur- ers, the club can move customers who have fostered a love for boating toward someone who can help them purchase the true boat of their dreams. Giglio said this is actually better for the industry in the long term, rather than focusing on the micro goal of selling a single boat today. "Those are the customers that are saying the two happiest days [of a boat buyer's life] are the day you buy and the day you sell it. We need to get rid of that stigma and we need to put them in the boat they want out of the blocks," said Giglio. "With the relationships we have with the manufacturers and dealers, now we send them [for example] to the local Hurricane dealer in Sarasota to go buy his Hurricane 22-foot deck boat, because that's what they decided [they like]." GROWTH THROUGH PARTNERSHIPS With the increased popularity of boat clubs and boat sharing comes new partnerships. Boatsetter merged with Cruzin in Sep- tember 2015, now operating under the Boatsetter brand name and incorporating the Cruzin look and feel. The companies merged the two websites and added the features and functionality of both platforms. "We realized this really was a match made in heaven. The areas that each of the independent companies had been focus- ing on were completely different. When you brought everything together, it was completely accretive," said Baumgarten. (LEFT) FREEDOM BOAT CLUB HAS HOSTED TWO 20 GROUP MEETINGS WITH DAVID PARKER FOR ITS FRANCHISEES.

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