With firms caught between hope and uncertainty, what 2013 holds for the French marine market remains unclear. Though life in the financial sector may be less turbulent for now and the Euro’s fate perhaps not quite so perilous, worries remain.
The fundamental feeling is that the crisis is not yet over. Unemployment (currently at 3.1m people) has soared 10.8% in a year, and the mood remains sombre despite the promises made by François Hollande to bring the figures down by the end of 2013. In fact the INSEE – the national Statistics institute – forecasts a worsening of the unemployment situation as we head into the spring.
The measures – and their efficiency – taken by the government to overcome the crisis have yet to be really understood or appreciated by the French voter.
The move (as much symbolic as political) to levy a 75% tax on personal revenues of over $1 million has encouraged an increasing number of wealthy French taxpayers to flee the country for places with less stringent tax regimes. All this worries the French leisure boat industry.
The French marine market, with a boat park estimated at 800,000 registered units – 500,000 of them active – is one of the biggest (and busiest) in Europe. “The nautical sector is dynamic, with over 5,000 companies and an overall staff of 41,000. it is marginally the leader of the French maritime industry,” points out Jean-françois fountaine, president of the F.I.N (Fédération des Industries Nautiques/ French Marine federation).
According to the latest FIN figures 2011 saw a slight upturn (+5.5%) in turnover to $4.56bn. The 900 companies in the industrial sector (manufacturers or importers of boats and equipment) directly employ 13,000 generating a turnover of $1.65bn, $1.1bn from the construction or importing of boats. The service sector (sales, maintenance, charter and others) is larger, with a turnover of $2.36bn generated by 3,300 firms and an overall staff of 23,000.
After a return to growth in 2009/10 (+7%) and in 2010/11 (+10.7%), the 2011/12 nautical year (from Sep 1-aug 31, 2012) reported an 18% fall in boat production to $739.9 million. it fell by 24% for sailing boats (3,325 units delivered representing $418.1 million turnover), 10% for motorboats (15,973 units delivered, $302.4 million turnover) but grew by 36% in production of smaller craft such as kayaks, rowing boats, etc. (24,402 units delivered with $19.4 million turnover). Despite a total of 43,700 units delivered, french production fell by 20%.
Some key figures: the 2007/08 turnover of $1.3bn was a record following a decade of continual double- digit growth. A year later (2008/09), when the financial crisis was taking hold, turnover dropped drastically to $761 million.