At MarineMax, boat sales buffeted by everything from Hurricane Irene to national debt debate
Wake up and good morning. One of Florida's key economic indicators, given the vast coastline and warm weather in this state, is whether the boating industry is strong, flat or weak. To use fishing lingo, boat buyers are still just nibbling.
Clearwater-based MarineMax, the country's biggest boat retailer, reported this morning that it lost $5.7 million in its fourth quarter and $11.5 million for its fiscal year ending Sept. 30. Sales were down 4 percent in the fourth quarter -- which means the company plans to cut costs -- even though sales were up 6.5 percent in fiscal 2011 from the previous year.
Most revealing are MarineMax CEO Bill McGill's (photo, right) sweeping remarks about what is hurting boat sales. "We would have preferred to have produced stronger results, but our industry's challenges persisted with a significant drop in consumer confidence brought about by increasing softness in the economy, the national debt debate, and, to a much lesser degree, Hurricane Irene."
(Even Occupy Wall Street's tentacles touched the boating industry. At last month's Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, Salon reported that 300 demonstrators of Occupy Fort Lauderdale took their placards on a nearly 3-mile march from the city's downtown to the beach, where the boat show was held. Most were reportedly undeterred by a torrential downpour that began in the march’s first half-mile, on Las Olas Boulevard, a district lined with shops and restaurants. Read more from Salon here. "Organizers of the march were careful to emphasize this was a demonstration 'at' the boat show, not 'against' the boat show, 'because most of the people at the boat show are in the 99 percent — they don’t own the 90-foot yachts,' says Jessica Wilson, a student at Florida Atlantic University.")
At MarineMax, McGill added that while fourth quarter results fell short of expectations, "we are making progress."
Stated McGill: "The unit growth we are experiencing in new boat sales is encouraging and we believe validates our view from a year ago that the industry has bottomed. Our market share gains support our belief that our strategies are aligned with boating enthusiasts' desires to escape and enjoy family time on the water. The positive news is that our customers are boating more as evidenced by the significant increase in participation at all our customer events. MarineMax's industry leading financial strength and size, premier brands, and customer centric retailing strategies position us best to capitalize on opportunities and growth as the industry recovers." Read McGill's complete statement here.
(A quick aside: MarineMax's web site has a lively blog from boaters, including this posting about someone taking pot shots at a boater near Mobile Bay.) The company's also moving into the charter vacation business.
-- Robert Trigaux, Business Columnist, St. Petersburg Times