Dealers report boat shortages during COVID-19 pandemic

Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, boats of all shapes and sizes have become hot commodities — boat sales skyrocketed this spring and summer, and many dealers have reported shortages.

Data from the National Marine Manufacturers Association indicates that May saw the highest new boat sales in a decade with another strong showing in June, USA Today reported.

Dealers say the spike is unprecedented.

“I’ve been doing this 35 years and I’ve never experienced anything like this,” Tony Tumas, sales manager at South Jersey’s Riverside Marina & Yacht Sales, told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “Even when we were working remotely, the phone calls wouldn’t stop.”

Sales are up for boats of all kinds.

Personal watercraft sales spiked 41% in June compared to the same month in 2019, and in May jet boat sales improved 31% compared to the year before, Fortune reported.

Jack Silver, salesman for Marina del Rey Yacht Sales, said his group is selling roughly 11 boats a month, compared to the two or three they sold per month before the pandemic, USA Today reported.

Other dealers have reported sail boats, jet-skis, kayaks and aluminum fishing boats among their most popular offerings, according to the Inquirer.

But it’s not just boat owners adding to their fleets — many boat buyers are doing so for the first time.

“What we’re seeing now is a growth opportunity driven by new buyers,” Melissa Danko, executive director of the Marine Trades Association of New Jersey, told Fortune.

Roughly half of all people buying boats are buying for the first time, Paul Flannery, executive director of the International Yacht Brokers Association, told USA Today.

And people aren’t just snatching up new boats.

John-Michael Donahue, communication director for the National Marine Manufacturers Association, said used boat sales have also skyrocketed, up 74% in 2020, the Inquirer reported.

“No matter what kind of boat you’re talking about, there’s been big increases,” Donahue told the newspaper. “We’re selling them as fast as we can make them.”

David Wood, a salesman at Boats Unlimited in North Carolina, said in July that his dealership had almost completely sold out of their boat line, WCTI reported.

He attributes the shortage to manufacturing disruptions due to the pandemic as well as people looking for fun ways to social distance, according to the outlet.

“It has been quite difficult to find a boat,” boat shopper Robert Dewar told WCTI. “We’ve been to about three locations just today to look for boats and they are either already sold and on the lot waiting for pick-up, or they’ve got them on back-order, and they have no idea when they will actually be delivered.”

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Dawson covers goings-on across the central region, from breaking to bizarre. She has an MSt from the University of Cambridge and lives in Kansas City.

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