Recreational businesses like boating and RVing tend to do best when the economy is healthy. Luckily, the U.S. economy has been on an upward swing in recent years, with growth signals being reported by several government bureaus.
Unemployment has been holding steady at 4.1 percent, and employment payroll increased by 313,000 jobs in the second month of 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Additionally, wages increased 4 cents per hour, bringing the average earnings to $26.75 per hour in February. Meanwhile, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reported that the U.S. real gross domestic product increased 2.3 percent in 2017, up from the increase of 1.5 percent seen in 2016.
Economists remain hopeful that 2018 will also bring gains to Americans and the national economy, The New York Times reported.
"The year-end is solid," Joel Prakken, chief United States economist at Macroeconomic Advisers by IHS Markit, told The Times, referring to the BEA's Gross Domestic Product: Fourth Quarter and Annual 2017 (Second Estimate) report. "It portends well for 2018 demand."
For professionals in the boating and RV industries, another sure, albeit very informal, measure of overall economic health is sales. Given that these types of purchases can be highly enjoyable but may be considered generally inessential, sales tend to decline during times of economic stress, such as during the Great Recession and the period of recovery that followed.
New powerboat sales were up an expected 6 percent in 2017, bringing the year-end total to an estimated 260,000 units, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association, which represents the U.S.'s recreational boat, engine and marine accessory manufacturers.
NMMA President Tom Dammrich said in a press release that he expects the now six-year streak of increases to continue into 2018.
"On the horizon, if economic indicators remain favorable to the recreational boating market with strong consumer confidence, a healthy housing market, rising disposable income and consumer spending, and historically low interest rates, the outlook is good for boat sales," Dammrich said.
Cruisers, larger boats between 22 and 32 feet that are used more for entertaining and relaxing than fishing and waterskiing, experienced the biggest growth in 2017, with sales increasing between 9 and 10 percent. Pontoons also experienced a surge in popularity, with sales jumping between 7 and 8 percent, and ski and wake boats increased about 7 percent.
Pre-owned boat sales are also gaining strong traction. In the same news release, the NMMA reported 2016 sales of pre-owned powerboats, personal watercraft and sailboats reached 981,600 crafts and totaled $9.2 billion.
The RV industry is experiencing similar increases, reported the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association. RV shipments increased in 2017, the eighth straight year, ending with 504,599 units shipped. This was a 17.2 percent increase over the 430,691 units shipped in 2016. It's also the largest year-over-year gain seen in the past six years.
RV shipments are already off to a good start in 2018, too; manufacturers shipped 36,622 towable RVs in January, a 26.6 percent increase over January 2017's total shipments. Motorhome shipments also increased, reaching 5,819 units shipped, up 18.1 percent from the same month in 2017.
As the economy continues to improve, recreational industries like boating, camping and travelling should continue to see increased interest. Dealers keen on keeping up with these trends will want to help their consumers make the purchases they need to engage in these family-friendly activities.
Offering financing programs for boat and towable RV sales can help immensely for those who are cautious about making an investment but want to join in the fun. To learn more about making financing programs available, reach out to Aqua Finance.