A rising tide: The boat business powers up
By Sam Boykin Dana Martin is anxiously awaiting a truckload of 16 Sea-Doos this week. For Martin, president of Lake Norman Power Sports, the arrival of the colorful and sporty personal watercraft is a welcome indicator that people are once again buying boats after a two-year drought. Along with folks who sell cars, RVs and all-terrain vehicles, boat dealers had a grim 2009 as consumers shied away from big-ticket purchases. “I’ve been working in the boating industry since the early 1970s, and I’d never seen it that bad,” said Martin. According to the trade journal Boating Industry, an estimated 25 to 50 percent of dealers vanished during the downturn. At Lake Norman, about 20 miles north of Charlotte, nearly a dozen boat dealers capsized during the recession. Those that have persevered are optimistic about sharing the 2010 rebound that auto, motor-home and ATV sellers have experienced so far this year. And while sales are still sluggish compared with a few years ago, now there are fewer dealers out there competing for consumers.