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Industry Statistics
Making the Most of Reports and Data

Boating Week 2000

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This session consisted of a panel of several industry data users and providers monitored by Jim Petru of the NMMA. Panelist were: Brett Keating and Audra Ramerman of U.S. Marine and Erica Conway of SeaRay, John Deputy of Godfrey Marine, Jack Ellis of Info-Link Technologies and Dick Dumont of Statistical Surveys


The NMMA compiles and provides aggregate monthly wholesale unit shipment data from all the engine manufacturers and all the PWC manufacturers.

They provide quarterly new (retail) sales data for OB, SD, IB and PWCs for about 65 to 100% of the market.

The NMMA also provides an annual boating abstract based on U.S. Coast Guard registrations.

Dick Dumont of Statistical Surveys in Cincinnati

Statistical Surveys started out tracking manufactured housing sales. In 1981 they started tracking the RV market and in 1995 they added the marine industry.

Their data is based on state registrations by quarter. They receive data from the 40 to 43 states, including the heavy boating states, resulting in 92-96% coverage of new registrations.

The use the HIN (Hull ID Number) to verify the manufacturer.

Manufacturers use the data to determine market share and to monitor new models, competitors, dealer areas and dealer shares.

Dealer market area reports can be arranged by counties in their area.

Customer profiling (dealer customer files) present ways and means to identify the best media to reach these customers.

The data is also used for dealer site selection.

The data should be part of a plan (ongoing process - not a one shot look) and you can improve the use of the data as an ongoing process as well.

Jack Ellis of Info-Link Technologies in Sarasota FL They have several hundred customers, each have their own needs.

The data can be used to study the size of the market, determine market structure, dealer location, dynamics, customer profiles, for direct mail work and other purposes.

They work from a database of every boat registered in the country (clarified as 97%) with actual names and addresses. They also follow transactions over time.

Erica Conway of SeaRay

They use Dick's service.

Slasher Geographics? put dealers in Geographic database and territorial data is through MapInfo.

They team with U.S. Marine.

Sea Ray has a competitive report by state, usually by quarter. This breaks down to individual dealers. The data can be broke by dealer or by manufacturer.

They can examine the data by specific models by manufacturers to gauge competition.

The manufacturers detail report can show sales of total sales (their share). Data can be exported to MapInfo to a chart showing concentrations by county.

John Deputy of Godfrey Marine

Godfrey does about everything SeaRay and U.S. Marine do and more.

They have a "Who Want to be a Millionaire" game based on sales.

The NMMA does wholesale data by product category. You can see pontoons there. It is more difficult to pick them out of Dick's data.

They have used Dick's data to calm down dealers about others selling outside their territories. They can see where the boats were registered.

Brett Keating and Audra Ramerman of U.S. Marine

Audra's primary concern is competitive intelligence.

They use a CDI (category density index) and a brand density index. The category density index is based on registration per state vs. population density.

They monitor areas they call the Top 50. This metropolitan analysis of areas such as Seattle, Portland and Sacramento covers most major areas. Salt Lake city is not covered (they do not provide the data).

They take each metropolitan area and identify the competitors in it. Then they identify how many competitors it takes to reach 80 percent of the market (a measure of fragmentation). The data is used to track category rich areas your brand is poor in.

Questions From the Audience

Do the consider proximity to water or water access variables? I asked this question.

They do consider local changing variables. Recently the Great Lakes have has water level problems. They try not to punish a dealer when local conditions change. Normally they use a 12 month rolling average to eliminate seasonal peaks. Someone mentioned recent gas price hikes.

They do not put in NOAA Ramp data.
RBBI Comment: Not sure exactly what this means. Most boat ramps are mapped, their may be a database of them.

What are the leading indicators?

Wholesale and engine retail sales. The industry seems to track well with consumer confidence.

Where is consumer confidence going?

Wholesale numbers are still up through June. Dick's number is down right now and makes the NMMA worry. Dealer inventory is slightly building.

Dick also does RVs and travel trailers. They seem to move a little quicker than boating when the industry swings. June 1 motor homes went down. Travel trailers are holding their own.

Boat sales on the coasts are generally up (GA, CA, TX) but in the midwest (MN, MI, OH) they are down.

Some segments of the market are doing very well (PWCs, diving boats, big boats 30 ft and up).

RVs usually lead the way on trends and boats tend to follow them. This particular time with high gas prices it is weird because RV sales are still doing very well. Dick thinks things are going to go flat for a while. Gas is on peoples minds.

The boating fraction of the entire population is decreasing (population growing faster than boaters). The comment was made, "If you can't bring people into this activity during the best of times, maybe alarms should be going off."

Does the NMMA have an effort to collect more accessory data?

They have tried a few times, but it is very difficult.

Is the audience aware of the data available from the U.S. Census?

A representative of the U.S.Census bureau was in the audience and wished to make sure we were aware of the data they provide. None (besides me) were aware of the economic data they provide from the business census.

RBBI Note: The 1997 Boat Building Industry business census data is now online as a .pdf file.
The annual CIR (Current Industry Report) for engines, MA35L, is also online in several formats.

Miscellaneous Comments

One group does PRISM studies of specific groups. Bayliners are bought by the 1st time boat owner and SeaRays look at BMW buyers.

Slausher Geographic? in Seattle did the front end database for one of the firms.

What about international boat sales data? I asked this question

The manufacturers do not currently track international sales data.

I mentioned Canada's Strategis web site has some Canadian and U.S. data.

A gentleman from Canada says they do not have a good source of data, especially not an online one. All the registrations are done on paper, many are not forwarded to central locations. Vessel licenses are issued by provinces and sometimes by customs offices. They do not have a good source of the total number of licenses or ownership transfer information. A single total number for all licensed craft above 9.9 horsepower is about all they have.

Current US Data Problems

Where does the owner buy it or use it, only get data on where it was registered. Many are trailered a long ways. How do you deal with that?

Data is based on state lines and only on where they live. Some states capture primary use data.

Florida dealers have people who winter there who may buy a boat somewhere else.

There are only about 5 U.S. companies involved in making marine engines or PWCs, but there are over 350 boat companies. Boat data is much more difficult to collect and aggregate.

Has anybody done onsite (on-the-lake) visual counts of boats or drives for market share data? I am aware the procedure is used at boat shows for engine brand share, but has it been tried out in the open? Has anybody tried aerial counts? I asked this question.

The question was answered by a number of blank stares? They could not realize why they would want to do that.

Finally a representative of Suzuki in the audience said they have occasionally used it in specific areas.

RBBI Comment: I visited with him later. He said it is very expensive and not often used. They have used it a couple times for seeing how a dealer is doing and just to find out what is going on in a certain area. I told him I recently encountered a technical article on the use of aerial counts at major recreational areas for another purpose and thought it might be of interest to the group. We were both caught off guard by how dumbstruck the panel was by the question..

Additional Sources of Data

The NMMA web site plus data they offer for sale.

Dick Dumont of Statistical Surveys at dumontri@fuse.net

Jack Ellis of Info-Link at jacke@info-link-tech.com

RBBI Comments:

Great session!! I was quite surprised by the level of expertise being applied at some of the builders in analyzing this data.

I have read several of Mr.Dumont's articles in Soundings Trade Only and took the opportunity to meet and visit with him after the session. He provided me with an example of the data they collect. I also visited with Mr. Ellis a few minutes. A big thanks to them and to the builder representatives for being on the panel.

Parting thoughts on "On Water" boat counts.

I am still bit shocked the builders have not employed onsite counts as a method of verifying where the boats are really being used, market and brand shares, etc.

Builders could just stick a college student at each of 10 popular boat ramps in an area on a major holiday and log boat or drives types as they go in the water. They could even print up a "recognition card" like those used to identify aircraft or ships by the military. Wildlife scientists counting duck populations on the water by species from a plane and from aerial photos. Ducks are just little boats on the same water as ours. (Manatees and certain fish are aerial counted as well). As satellite imaging technology improves, it might be used for this purpose as well.

Two aerial photography counting references are provided below:

Counting the Herd. Using Aerial Photography to Estimate Attendance at Open Events. Mike Raybould, Trevor Mules, Elizabeth Fredline, and Renata Tomljenovic. Event Management. Vol. 6. 2000. Pgs. 25-32.

Evaluation of an Aerial Quadrant Survey of Monitoring Wintering Duck Populations. The Journal of Wildlife Management. 1 Apr. 1997. Vol. 71 No.2.

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