The market looks to have finally ‘bottomed out’ but with a poor spring keeping boaters off the water growth this year will be hard won

The majority had been hoping for some sort of rebound in the market in 2012, but with sales off by 5-7 per cent across most segments, last year proved another false dawn for the Norwegian industry.

“I think that everybody hoped that the bottom had been reached in 2011, and that we would have at least a flat 2012, but that unfortunately did not happen,” Erlend Prytz, managing director of Norway’s marine trade association Norboat, told IBI.

“Our estimate is that 5,000-6,000 boats were sold in 2012,” Prytz notes, a figure down by something like 70 per cent since the height of the market in 2007.

Prytz points out that sailboats have been outperforming the market the last couple of years, as have small, outboard powered boats, including RIBs. “Small runabouts, or cabin boats as we call them, have done well in 2012, and so far they’re doing relatively well this year too,” he says.

The Norwegian boating industry has been hit hard by the economic crisis in Europe that has taken its toll on consumer confidence. Sales are tougher than ever, so decent weather to help encourage people out onto the water was a must. Unfortunately Norway’s Spring, like that experienced by much of northern Europe this year, has been cold and damp.

“Even though we have a very high use of pleasure boats in Norway, we know that it is influenced by the weather,” says Prytz. He told IBI that last year the trade association conducted a survey to estimate the boat usage across the country, and that the study confirmed that it’s all about the weather. “Two out of three boat owners said they will use the boat more relative to last year if the weather is better this season, and 43 per cent of the boaters surveyed said they have used the boat less due to foul weather.”

Knut Heiberg Andersen, CEO of boatbuilder Windy Boats, concurs. “We were fortunate because last year we had a warm spell from March-April and the nice weather motivated boat enthusiasts and boat buyers, so we had a good season.” He adds that the opposite has happened in 2013. “We have had a long and harsh winter, and it feels that spring is not here yet, so this will be a another difficult year.”

Windy Boats builds cruisers and sports cruiser from 25ft-58ft. Beside the domestic market and its presence in Sweden and Finland, the builder has reported good sales in Switzerland, with a 20 per cent increase in the 2012-2013 period. Heiberg Andersen told IBI that sales in France and England are at even level compared to last year.

NOTE: This is an excerpt from the country report included in the June-July issue of IBI magazine. IBI Plus subscribers can download the complete report from IBI Plus website.