2 min read March 2021 —Tampa Bay’s already vibrant marine sector and people seeking safe outdoor activities in a COVID-prevalent environment have propelled boating to new heights. In an interview with Invest:, Mike McLamb, executive vice president and CFO of MarineMax, shares how his company is capitalizing on the surge in boating enthusiasm.
What were some major takeaways in 2020 for the marine industry?
We actually saw robust demand long before COVID-19 hit. We started off FY20 with strong sales, and very strong demand in the marketplace. That trend continued through early March when the virus hit. Everybody took a pause to figure out what was really happening. Then, shortly after the lockdowns, we started to see an uptick in business, from both existing boaters and those who had been absent or never boated. People realized how great boating can be as recreation, and it’s safe and away from crowds. As the summer progressed, more and more people learned about boating, joined the lifestyle and got into boating. Our industry has seen a sizable influx of a new foundational layer of people joining the industry. The demographics in the industry have gotten more diverse. The average age of the boat buyer has dropped. All these are incremental movements in the right direction, which has all been healthy for the long-term benefit of the industry.
What are the challenges inherent to this demand surge?
With the onset of COVID, most manufacturers around the world closed down, either out of safety for their team or at the behest of their local authorities. All the manufacturing plants had to close for some period of time, anywhere between a month or two. As they were closing, demand was accelerating. The manufacturers generally were closed for four to eight weeks. When they restarted operations, it took time to get back up to normal production levels, especially with increased absenteeism from COVID and COVID-related supply chain issues. Meanwhile, demand has continued to grow, driving supply down to historically low levels. If you looked at our inventories at the end of June and at the end of September, we were down close to 40% each period from the prior year. We managed to navigate through these declines by successfully training our team on how to sell virtually, without the same number of boats at our stores. We’ve been able to drive strong growth with meaningfully lower inventory levels because we’ve been able to pivot from a brick-and-mortar retailer to more of an online retailer where you are selling ordered slots that are at the manufacturing plant and then delivering those.
How do you think the Tampa Bay region is uniquely positioned for your industry?
Tampa Bay offers a great boating environment for anyone wanting to enjoy the boating lifestyle. The places available to visit by boat, the restaurants that are on the water, the islands that are all around Tampa Bay, the fishing — all that makes Tampa Bay a great place to enjoy the boating lifestyle. When you think about the west coast of Florida, most of the islands from north of Tampa Bay all the way south to the Keys are lightly inhabited. They offer beaches to go to, drop anchor and enjoy boating to its fullest extent.
The growing population in Florida and specifically in Tampa Bay is also positive for our business. It’s a community that likes to do things outdoors. The different bike and running trails that Tampa Bay offers, amid other outdoor activities that get you near the water, which Tampa Bay has invested in over the years, help us as well from a business perspective.
What are the main goals or priorities for MarineMax going forward?
Our biggest priority for 2021 goes back to our core customer-focused strategies: teach me, service me and show me how to have fun. We’re doing an outstanding job in all those categories. Our strategies are perfect for the dramatic growth we have seen in the foundational layer of people who are new to boating. They need us to help ensure they maximize their boating experiences and enjoy the lifestyle to the fullest. We plan to be even more proactive in keeping our customers highly satisfied while they are out enjoying the water.
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