Boat sales booming as other industries struggle to stay afloat amid pandemic shutdowns


(WTNH) — Much of the focus during the COVID-19 pandemic has been on businesses that have been adversely affected by the shutdowns. But in the case of boating, it might be a bit of a case of fools gold.

“When COVID first came to Connecticut – or New York actually – people were unsure what was going on, and it was a ghost town here. I mean nothing was going on at all,” John Benchimol, the owner of Harborside Marina and Yacht Sales in Clinton explained.

This was in stark contrast to last year. According to Businesswire, U.S. boat sales reached the second-highest volume in 12 years in 2019.

Benchimol echoed that, saying, “Last year was a good year for us. It was our best year we’ve been in business.”

With so much uncertainty, it seemed like another business was being adversely affected by the pandemic. Then, things changed.

“I would say about 3 weeks ago, the phone started ringing, calls started coming in, people started inquiring about boats. Now it’s just gangbusters,” Benchimol said.

But why the change?

With interest rates down, it’s actually a good time to buy. Benchimol said it’s a combination of things with respect to who is buying right now.

New boats, pre-owned boats. Now, Harborside Marina is back on track.

“I would say that right now we are trending from April sales we are ahead of where we were last year at this time,” Benchimol explained. “We know not a lot of people are going to travel in an airplane, we know the trips to Europe are probably not going to happen this summer, Disneyworld is got going to happen this Summer. And sports, we don’t even know what’s going to happen with sports, and kids sports during the summertime…quite honestly our biggest competitor. Other obligations are the biggest competitor to boats” right now.

Can it continue? Maybe not, because supply probably can’t keep up with the demand.

“The manufacturing facilities are closed. Just starting to reopen right now, so, inventory is going to be a real problem for us this year,” Benchimol said.

Boating is expensive, and the biggest competitor is time.

Do you want to spend six figures on a boat you may use only a handful of times because of other commitments? Maybe not, but time is what we all seem to have a lot of right now.

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