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A rising tide of boat sales in 2020 helps lift the UK marine industry

Published on: 18 March 2021

Boats Group, British Marine

  • UK new and used (unit) boat sales grew 9% in 2020, according to new sales data published by Boats Group.
  • This represents a reversal of the 8% decline in boat sales seen in 2019 due to slowing global and domestic economic growth.
  • 3,544 new and used boats were reported as sold to Boats Group in the UK in 2020, representing an estimated 80% share in total UK boat sales revenues, generating £250m in revenue – a revenue growth of 19% compared to 2019.
  • This growth reflects increased demand for boats across virtually all vessel types and size ranges, but particularly among more expensive boats worth over £100,000, unit sales of which were up 18% compared with 2019 unit sales.  

British Marine is pleased to share new sales data released by Boats Group that reveals a surge in demand for boats and other watersports craft during 2020. 

Following the release of these boat sales trends up to December 2020, British Marine members are now set to benefit from our collaboration with Boats Group to access monthly data for 2021 onwards. In a first for British Marine, sales data will be shared with members through an online dashboard showing the latest aggregated sales figures for the preceding month, helping to provide regular valuable market intelligence. British Marine members can access the dashboard and the 2020 data here

After an initial sales slump of 40% between March and May in 2020, with sales inhibited by the UK’s first national lockdown, sales of new and used boats rebounded rapidly in the summer. The impact of the ‘staycation’ effect was felt from June to the end of December, as boat unit sales grew over 50% compared to the same period in 2019. With British consumers unable to travel, Britons and their families sought new ways to replicate the adventure and escape of travel, whilst staying socially distant and safe during the pandemic.  

In order to service this considerable interest, British Marine launched the highly successful #summeronthewater campaign. Reaching 4.2 million people, the campaign helped to raise awareness and showcase the marine leisure offering to a new nationwide audience within the context of the ‘Great British Staycation’. Watersports provide the perfect solution to the restrictions presented by the coronavirus pandemic, offering wellbeing benefits and an exciting mode of outdoor recreation, helping to create substantial numbers of new boating enthusiasts. 

This new audience of boaters and watersport participants and spike in demand provides a positive boost to the UK’s marine industry. It is reversing the impacts of a slowing global economy and economic dislocation suffered in the UK’s national lockdown between March and June 2020. Furthermore, strong demand from other countries across the world that are experiencing a similar appetite for recreational boating products is providing a boost to economic productivity in UK marine businesses, from manufacturing and retail to boating tourism. While uncertainty remains over the continued disruption of the pandemic and the economic impact of transitioning out of the EU’s custom union, the hunger for boating from UK and global consumers is helping to galvanise the industry. 

Commenting on the new figures, Lesley Robinson, CEO of British Marine, stated;
“Last summer we were seeing evidence and hearing regular news about the staycation effect and boom in sales for leisure marine businesses, however I am delighted that these anecdotal stories are now backed up with the empirical data and figures in this new report by Boats Group. The sales data is welcome news at a time that has been and will continue to be challenging for every business. Furthermore, I am delighted that British Marine members will now benefit from access to future boat sales data on a regular basis, offering them a super tool for real-time insight.” 

Alastair Walton of Boats Group added:
“The analysis made available through this initiative with British Marine is drawn from data supplied to Boats Group from hundreds of professional brokers and dealers here in the UK. It follows a huge surge in traffic to our portals, and is great news for the industry as a whole. Digital marketing stood up to last year’s challenges and is now, more than ever, today’s proven leading strategy for selling new or used boats. Boats Group will continue to invest in this growth, delivering unmatched value to the industry.”

British Marine members can listen again to the Statistics & Research session at the Digital Spring Expo where this new data and dashboard is discussed in depth.