Sailing Industry Study Tracks the Latest Trends

The 2006 North American Sailing Industry Study charts sailboat production, sailboat imports, and bareboat charter activity.

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The Sailing Company, publishers of Cruising World and Sailing World magazines, released the results of the 2006 North American Sailing Industry Study at an industry research presentation and breakfast during the Miami International Boat Show and Strictly Sail. The breakfast attracted over 130 sailing industry leaders and was co-sponsored by Sail America and GE Capital Solutions. Market data in The Sailing Company's annual study includes sailboat production, sailboat imports, and bareboat charter activity. All of the data was collected and tabulated by Rick Walter MarketResearch Associates of Hilton Head, South Carolina.Among the Study's most notable findings is that sailboat production in North America was off 7% in 2006, driven by losses in entry-level models under 12 feet in length. US and Canadian sailboat manufacturers produced 14,945 boats in 2006, marking one of the lowest totals since the late 1990s. There were bright spots in the year's results, however, as a number of size segments recorded gains. In fact, strong production increases in large boats over 36' moved the dollar value of North American sailboat production up 5% year over year, to an estimated total of $755 million. The Study's production data was provided by 128 sailboat builders in the US and Canada who voluntarily contributed their annual results in confidence to an independent market research firm retained by The Sailing Company. Bareboat Chartering Holds the Line66 charter companies were contacted in the 2006 survey, yielding an 80% response rate including all the market leaders. North American consumers booked a total of 26,781 weeks of bareboat charter in 2006, representing almost $75 million in charter fees. Charter companies were off only 432 weeks from 2005, holding onto the rebound which the industry has experienced after a low point of 24,308 weeks in 2002. The Caribbean remains the most popular chartering destination accounting for 56% of the total weeks. Charters in the US and Canada represent another 34%, with another 7% taken in Europe and the South Pacific. Sailboat Imports Up in 2006Sailboat imports were up substantially in 2006, increasing 14% to a total of 420 units. With two years of consecutive growth, imports have increased by 24% since 2004 despite a weakening dollar. Multihulls accounted for nearly one out of every four imported sailboats in 2006.Sailboat Production Results Mixed By Size RangesOverall market performance was driven downward by a number of factors, including economic factors like fluctuating oil prices and a fizzling real estate market, as well as continued uncertainty over the war in Iraq. But certain market sectors performed well, benefiting from increased exports and higher demand stimulated by new models.Small boats showed mixed results. Production of daysailors12'-19' in length increased a modest 3% to 8380 units, making up more than half the year's total output. The under 12' category was down substantially, losing ground for the second year in a row, perhaps due to a lack of new models to stimulate sales. Mid-size cruisers 30'-35' were off 16% to 712 units after two strong years in both 2004 and 2005, suggesting that dealer inventories needed to be worked down in 2006. Yet all size ranges over 36' experienced growth in 2006, with the largest gains coming in the 41-45' segment. Another one of the bright spots in 2006 was multihulls, which were up 11% to 2884 units, comprising a record 19% of the year's overall sailboat production. New models seemed to drive the gains here which came primarily from entry level multihulls up to 19'.2007 OutlookParticipating sailboat builders and importers also submitted forecasts for 2007, with both groups predicting gains for the year ahead. Domestic builders projected a 6% increase overall, with a strong resurgence expected in the middle of the market for boats 20'-35'. The importers also forecast a modest gain of 5% for '07. Market fundamentals are strong, and the long term outlook for the sailing industry is very positive given the strong alignment between the positive attributes of sailing and the psychographics of American consumers. Some of the most powerful drivers in today's world have been identified as a need to be connected, the rising influence of women, the importance of preparing children for life's challenges, and a new approach to health and wellness which includes a renewed commitment to being "green." Sailing marketers who can demonstrate that their products and services help consumers meet these needs have every reason to be optimistic about the future of their businesses.

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