One unexpected result of the global COVID-19 pandemic has been a surge in boat sales, as families eschew overseas vacations in favour of enjoying the outdoors. But the demand for boats has grown so rapidly and so dramatically that boat builders have struggled to keep up, leaving some cottage country dealers running out of inventory.
Legend Boats general manager Marc Duhamel says that people have been buying boats faster than manufacturers can produce them, resulting in production backlogs and long wait times for dealerships that just want to restock. “Virtually all of the boats being built right now are already sold, there are people waiting for them,” he says. “Someone who buys a boat right now could be waiting four to five weeks before they see it.”
The jump in demand is great news for the boat industry, which was effectively shut down in Canada for much of the spring with the arrival of COVID-19. “March, April and May are giant months for boat sales,” says Dumahel. “It’s our peak season but this year, there were no sales, or almost no sales whatsoever because of COVID. Then around the Victoria Day weekend when Ontario allowed boat ramps and boating to open back up, things took off in a flash and we haven’t looked back.”
Duhamel says the demand for boats hasn’t let up even into August—a point in the year where sales normally tend to fall off. “Our monthly sales are still exceeding our previous year’s monthly sales by between 30% and 40%,” he says. “I believe that it will take all the way through December before we’re truly caught up.”
A number of boat dealers have reported increased numbers of first-time buyers this year, attracted by record-low interest rates and entry-level models such as Legend’s R-series boats coming in with retail prices under the $5,000 mark—suggesting that the growing interest in boating may be more than just a COVID-fed bubble. “Boating has always been the best way to socially distance while reconnecting with family in a healthy and positive way,” says Sara Anghel, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association Canada. “It’s affordable, and that’s a big reason why we’re now seeing such a high demand for boats.”