‘Challenging’ was the adjective that seemed to jump most quickly to the lips of interviewees for our annual review of the current state of the UK marine industry. With the domestic economy stagnating, the housing market – traditionally a major driver of boat sales – in a prolonged slump, and the eurozone crisis not looking like it is going to be resolved anytime soon, the UK’s marine industry is battling through something of a perfect storm.

If ‘challenging’ summed up 2012, it is likely to be a fitting adjective for 2013. British Marine Federation’s chief executive Howard Pridding identifies consumer confidence – or lack of – as continuing to be a major issue going forward. “exports remain crucial,” he told IBI.

“The big players (Sunseeker, Princess, Fairline) are looking to the BriC countries and are making headway there, and we’ve seen some movement at the top end of the market. But it’s tough for everyone. when people are fearful for their jobs they are hardly prioritising investing in boating.”

Gauging sentiment

Back in the summer the BMF released results of its annual survey gauging sentiment amongst its 1,500 or so members for the six months up to May. The picture was decidedly mixed. overall business activity trends were fairly unchanged from the survey for the previous six months. 31 per cent of members claimed to have seen an increase in business activity, while 33 per cent saw a decrease.

Future business prospects have improved marginally since expectations reported in November 2011: 35 per cent said they expected the next six months to be good/excellent, 45 per cent believed it would be OK and 21 per cent thought it was likely to be poor.

The value of the export order book was reported to be higher for 32 per cent of UK companies for the last six months compared to the same period a year ago and lower for 44 per cent, resulting in a net balance of -12 per cent. While those reporting an increase in exports has risen by six per cent, five per cent stated their exports had decreased, reflecting very much the sense that at present business is a case of ‘one step forward, one step back’.

There are causes for optimism however. Just over half the members responding (51 per cent) rated prospects for the next 12 months as good or excellent, while 39 per cent stated it as OK. Ten per cent foresee the year negatively.

Note: The above is an excerpt of the full country report published in the December 2012/January 2013 edition of IBI magazine. IBI Plus subscribers can download the full report from the website. If you’re not yet a subscriber, please visit IBI Plus.