Chain O ‘Lakes boat dealers see high demand, supply shortage as pandemic purchasing continues

Boat merchants in and near Lake and McHenry counties had a huge year in 2020, with people refraining from travel and rushing to outdoor activities as the COVID-19 pandemic limited entertainment options.

Even as public health restrictions eased in northern Illinois in the first months of 2021, the surge in interest in buying boats has not abated, chiefs said. local businesses.

In fact, this year could end up being even better for boat sales on Chain O ‘Lakes,’ they said.

“What we are seeing so far are almost higher numbers than last year. So far, from what we are seeing, the season is going fantastic,” said Patrick Short, owner of the Five Star Boat Center and Marina at Fox Lake.

But those looking to get a new vessel to use this summer may already be unlucky, as area dealers see back orders for popular models pushing delivery dates back until fall, especially for larger ones. boats.

Boat showrooms in the area were unable to restock quickly enough to meet demand as manufacturers struggled to secure enough parts to build more boats, dealers said. local.

“Our manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the coming volume,” Short said.

Due to the shortage of supply, manufacturers raised their prices and subsequently the profit margin per unit tightened a little more than normal at Fox Lake Harbor, but overall the bottom line increases with increasing sales volume, co-owner Warren Dit Moulis.

“We’ve been here since 1952. We’ve never run out of boats before – until now,” said Moulis.

It’s not just the new boats that are absorbed almost instantly once they hit the market. Used boats are leaving dealerships just as quickly.

“Used boats, we normally have 75 in stock. We currently have three. Used boats are also very hard to find,” Moulis said on Thursday.

Gordy’s Marine, a boat dealer with multiple locations in northern Illinois and Wisconsin including Fox Lake, also tried to get customers to resell their used boats to the dealer to help meet demand, said Jim Kelsey, a sales rep for Gordy.

“We have some great customers who have multiple boats, they’ve been willing to drop one and order a new one for fall or next season,” Kelsey said.

The increase in demand has been driven by people new to boating wanting to try it out and experienced boat owners willing to upgrade or supplement their fleets, local dealers have said.

Another difference between the boating industry during the pandemic and years past is the greater number of cash purchases that local dealerships were dealing with recently. People are choosing to forgo financing their boats more often this year and instead buy the boats properly.

Kelsey also said that customers who still use loans to buy boats are also making larger down payments than usual, and he attributed this, in part, to cuts in vacation and travel budgets in the midst of the pandemic.

“We find that they are willing to invest more money to get a slightly better interest rate or something,” he said.

Gordy’s Marine has also felt a greater desire to join his yacht club, which gives people access to boats they can use for a monthly fee without outright owning them, Kelsey said.

“A lot of families are realizing how accessible it really is, even with inventory shortages and all that. There are more ways to try boating and get in the water between rentals, yacht clubs and property, ”Kelsey said.

Short, the owner of the Five Star Boats Center, said he expects strong demand for boats to persist until next year, given the current pace of vessel manufacturing.

As the boating industry has been bolstered by the public health crisis, local dealers have recognized that their recent economic fortunes coincided with a heavy toll for many others who have taken not only jobs but also lives.

“COVID-19 has helped us, and you hate to say that with so many people who are suffering,” Moulis said.

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