February | March 2021
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>> Doubling down will have twice the impact
WRITING AT THE CLOSE of 2020 as the December issue of IBI went to press, I struck an optimistic note that the unexpected bounce our industry had been given by the pandemic’s impact on societies’ freedoms which led to a surge in boating interest, could provide a net long-term gain for our business, with one caveat – that the tail of Covid disruptions didn’t trespass too long into 2021; that the full mechanics of travel and boat shows could be allowed to crank back up allowing our industry to consolidate market potential and feed the pipe for future sales.
That optimism was momentarily dented by the cold reality at the start of the year, that Covid-19 will cast a long shadow in 2021, disrupting Europe certainly until the summer months at least, potentially until the autumn. Other regions have come through the worst of the pandemic it seems, or were not as impacted from the outset, but wherever you are in the world, Covid continues to grab headlines.
As we approach the spring, however – and judging by the mood of the market (read our Italian and French market reports on pages 26 and 50 respectively) – there appears to be little ebbing of consumer confidence, with the gathering momentum suggesting a likely doubling down of the gains we experienced in the second half of 2020, through this year.
Talking to builders it seems that the new ways of selling virtually and to targeted groups in adherence to whatever the social protocols of the respective country, appear to be satiating the need for now of what one major builder described to me as a “hot” market. Buyers are queueing up to put down deposits on boats from respected brands, having had little more than a virtual tour, in a bid to secure their slice of future freedom. Build slots for many of the major builders are pretty much taken for 2021, but there is still stock in the system and dealers around the world will be doing their utmost to get people out onto the water this summer. One only has to look at the recent boom in activity across the various online brokerages around the world to see the upside to Covid’s impact.
A small, dynamic industry such as ours must take full advantage in these months of uncertainty – while rivals such as the cruise ship sector remain stuck in port – to convert as many newcomers as we can to the joys of leisure boating. As vaccine roll outs gather momentum, the world will open up, travel will resume and the boat shows will come back with a bang, giving the industry an added boost into 2022.
Ultimately the net gains for our industry could be bigger and longer-term than even this optimist could hope for.
Ed Slack | IBI Editor
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