Marine audio sales are generally expected to be up about 5 to 7 percent at retail this year, according to our poll of about a dozen industry members.
In the big overview, boat sales were lousy last year, but they are showing signs of improvement this year. The National Marine Manufacturer’s Association (NMMA) expects “a slow recovery in 2011 and a stronger recovery in 2012,” said a spokeswoman. Power boat sales fell approximately 14 percent in 2010 following a 24 percent fall in 2009. (Final 2010 NMMA figures are released at the end of this month).
If you look at all boats 14 feet or larger, sales were down by 11 percent in 2010, said Statistical Surveys.
The aftermarket fared better in this economic climate because owners upgraded their used boats.
For this year, industry members are predicting a small gain of 5 to 7 percent. The NPD Group does not track marine audio so we’re basing our figures on our poll of suppliers and retailers.
For Fusion Electronics, marine AV is 60 percent of its overall U.S. business and its sales were up by 50 percent last year, according to Todd Crocker. He believes retailers can expect a jump in the high single digits this year.
Alpine says it grew its marine business by double digits last year and expects a single digit jump this year. Mike Anderson guesses it’s reasonable for retailers to expect a 5 percent gain.
Two other suppliers said their business was down last year.
This year, JL Audio says its sales are up by double digits. Speaking on the industry in general JL Audio’s Manville Smith said, “I think we finally hit a bottom last year in the declines in the mobile and marine CE business. We’re seeing positive trends across the board in mobile and marine.”
But, we should point that new boats, like new cars, are starting to ship with unusual radio configurations that will make it difficult to swap in an aftermarket radio. High end boats now include “black box” radios—radios hidden behind the dash that come with a remote for controls.
“The boat builders are looking for solutions that free up the design of their dash. And being that the physical optical drive isn’t driving the business anymore, you don’t need to have a radio big enough to accept a disc. It opens up the possibility of how small you can make the controllers,” said Smith.
These black box radios are starting to migrate to mid-priced boats.
Alpine said the business should be strong for the near term for the aftermarket. “We see this being a healthy market for the next couple of years,” said Anderson.
Generally marine audio products sell at a rate of 1 to 50 compared to car audio product sales in the aftermarket.
Photos: Clarion CMD7 and MB Quart Nautic speakers