Updated: The marine audio market is small but it’s very profitable to many dealers and suppliers who have ridden a wave of growth over the past three years.
Rough estimates from three suppliers peg the market at about $150 to $200 million in retail aftermarket sales. One supplier estimates growth at 12-15 percent for the next 5 years.
Marine audio OEM sales to boat makers are estimated at about $60 to $80 million.
Nearly every vendor we polled said marine audio is on the upswing including Wet Sounds, Rockford, JL Audio, Cerwin-Vega/Diamond Audio Jensen, Harman, Maxxsonics and MTX.
At a time when car audio sales are challenged, marine audio is a “Godsend,” said JL Audio VP Marketing Manville Smith. The company launched a new production line for marine speakers last month to keep up with demand for marine coaxials.
Jensen said its marine audio sales are up 25 percent over last year and it expects another 25 percent hike this year.
Wet Sounds, which focuses heavily on marine audio, won the Aggie 100 award recently for 48% growth.
Maxxsonics predicts it will see double digit growth for the segment over the next few years, said Director of Business Development Brian Sherman.
Harman expects marine audio to grow by about 15 percent in the next 12 months. The segment currently represents about 12 percent of its mobile audio business in the Americas.
“Marine has been huge for both aftermarket and OEM. It’s been a very nice shot in the arm at a time when we’re all struggling to hang on to volume on the mobile side,” said Smith, calling it the company’s largest growth category.
MTX said marine audio represents 8 to 10 percent of its overall mobile audio sales, and if you add powersports to the mix, it climbs to about 20 percent.
FYI, boat sales have been on the rise since the recession (when they plummeted by about half in new boat registrations). Jesse Wells of Info-Link estimates new boat registrations at about 200,000 last year for power boats over 15 feet. Peak registrations before the recession were at about 250,000, but they fell to about 120,000 in 2010 and have worked their way up.
While marine is a small niche, it’s attractive to suppliers and retailers for a few key reasons. Boaters replace marine audio products more frequently than car owners replace car audio due to marine audio’s exposure to moisture. In addition, awareness of quality audio for boats is on the rise. And boat owners are not afraid to spend more for quality sound.
“People are cranking it up and other people hear it and they want it,” said Smith. “Dealers who are not in it are nuts.”
For retailers looking to add marine business, the formula is similar to that of winning expediter business, only this time you are pursuing marinas instead of car dealers….Go out and introduce yourself to the local marina and bring a box of donuts.