What America’s changing demographics mean for boating
Published on April 3rd, 2015
by Brianna Liestman & Jonathan Sweet, BoatingIndustry.com
It’s no exaggeration to say we are in the midst of major demographic shifts in the United States. What the average American looks like, where they live and how they behave are all changing at a rapid pace.
With these changes in generations, race and ethnicity, it also means a much different target audience for boating.
In the next two sections, we lay out some of the demographic changes that are occurring. Then, starting with “Engaging new markets,” we share insights and solutions from people across the industry on how we can make the most of this new opportunity.
The Millennial wave
This year the Millennial generation (those born roughly between 1981 and 1997) will surpass the Baby Boomers (born 1946 to 1964) as the largest living generation, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. By the end of 2015, there will be an estimated 75.3 million Millennials, compared to 74.9 million Boomers.
The Baby Boom generation peaked at 78.8 million in 1999. With immigration continuing to add to their generation, the number of Millennials is projected to peak at 81.1 million in 2036.
The smaller Generation X, sandwiched between the two outsized generations, is expected to peak at 65.8 million in 2018 and surpass Baby Boomers in 2028.
With those numbers in mind, it’s not surprising that in a recent Boating Industry survey, 65 percent of respondents said they were at least somewhat concerned about the aging population of boat buyers, and only 5 percent were not concerned at all. The white male Baby Boomer has been the core of the boating industry for decades, buying millions of boats, engines and accessories.
Each year, the age of the average boat buyer is about six months older than the year before, according to analysis by Info-Link. Info-Link has tracked buyer registration data back to 1997 and in that time, the average buyer age has increased by about 8 years. Although the periods don’t line up perfectly, that’s much faster than the aging of general population from the 2000 to 2010 Census, where the average age increased only 1.9 years to 37.2 years old. There are significant variations in buyer age by category (see chart), but one thing every market segment has in common is an aging buyer.
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