By Jamie Mountain
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
TEMAGAMI – A benefit of the pandemic is that it has allowed people to discover new passions or interests.
That is certainly true when it comes to boating and water activities, as the Toronto International Boat Show reported in a news release those activities “soared in popularity” at the onset of the pandemic last year, with no signs of slowing down in 2021.
They added that many in the boating industry are forecasting a similar second wave of demand in 2021 that “may imminently create a boat shortage in Canada.”
That wave of consumer demand last year was felt even in Temagami.
Temagami Marine, which is owned and operated by Kim and Jim Krech, is expecting another wave of boat sales for 2021 and will likely be sold out of boats by the end of May.
“In April of last year we were down in sales by 86 per cent and we were very nervous,” said Kim Krech in an email interview.
“By mid-June we were sold out of windshield model boats and only had two pontoon boats left in stock.”
Krech noted that Temagami Marine ordered its 2021 model year boats last June and now says the manufacturers are sold out until model year 2022.
“Sales are very strong right now, even with people shopping before there is no stock left,” she said.
Krech feels the reason that the demand is so high for boats and water activities right now is because they are recreational opportunities that the whole family can enjoy outdoors while also isolating and following COVID precautions.
“There is vacation money not being spent and people are anticipating not travelling for a few years,” she reasoned.
“It is a great family getaway (while) still remaining in a tight bubble and at home.”
The Toronto International Boat Show, which held a virtual show this year from January 18-24, noted in the news release that it's not just customers who are rushing to get their hands on new boats - dealers are, too.
They say manufacturing, logistics and supply chain challenges have slowed inventory, making it difficult to keep up with the high demand.
"Many people may not realize that in a normal year, if you waited until the weather gets warmer to start thinking about buying a boat, it's already too late," said Linda Waddell, director of the Toronto International Boat Show, in the news release.
"There's a heightened sense of urgency - driven by the pandemic - to get an earlier start on planning for the boating season.”
In a survey conducted by the Toronto Boat Show, 80 per cent of participating dealers/exhibitors indicated they anticipate current inventory to be in low supply, if not sold-out, within the next few months.
Comparing the 2020 numbers to 2019:
• 80 per cent of exhibitors experienced a significant increase in enquiries/sales from new boaters and first-time buyers
• 50 per cent of exhibitors noted an increase in enquiries/sales from customers under the age of 40
• 40 per cent of exhibitors estimated that overall sales increased by 15 to 25 per cent, and Pontoons, bowriders, and personal watercraft such as Sea-Doos and WaveRunners were some of the top-selling categories in 2020 among boat show exhibitors.
Jamie Mountain, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Temiskaming Speaker