Boating Industry Slump Could Signal Recession Economists looking for signs of a recession might want to keep an eye on recreational boating, a $40 billion a year industry that has proved in the past to be a bellwether for the rest of the economy.
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Boating Industry Slump Could Signal Recession

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Boating Industry Slump Could Signal Recession

Boating Industry Slump Could Signal Recession

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RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

NPR's Scott Neuman took the pulse of the nation's sailing capital, Annapolis, Maryland.

SCOTT NEUMAN: Larry Ritchie(ph) is looking over a used 32 foot sloop at one of the dozens of marinas that fringe the Annapolis waterfront.

LARRY RITCHIE: What I like about this boat is the minimal amount of wood.

NEUMAN: Yacht broker Dave Van den Arend has seen a lot of that lately. Many potential buyers are reluctant to sink big money into a boat while the economy is looking so shaky.

DAVE VAN DEN AREND: I think, in general, the people that are looking are being more cautious about it, thinking more about what they're doing. They're a lot more skittish, I guess.

NEUMAN: Brunswick Corporation makes such well-known powerboat lines as SeaRay and Boston Whaler. CEO Dustan McCoy says his company's segment of the market is experiencing its worst slump in decades.

DUSTAN MCCOY: We're one of the first industries to begin to go down as the economy begins to stiffen, if you will.

NEUMAN: Tom Damrich is president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association. He says people often take out home-equity loans to finance their dream boat, but many of them started backing away from the market two years ago.

TOM DAMRICH: Boating was off about six percent in 2006 - new boat sales. And we're expecting to be off about another 10 or 15 percent in 2007.

NEUMAN: Again, Tom Damrich.

DAMRICH: Boats are manufactured in the United States. The components that go into boats are manufactured in the United States and the boating industry employs a lot of Americans.

NEUMAN: In downtown Annapolis, docks jut right into the heart of the city. Adjacent to the waterfront is Fawcett Boat Supplies, which caters mainly to the area's numerous sailors, a major source of revenue for the town that is also home to the U.S. Naval Academy. Fawcett co-owner, Steve Ripley, says Annapolis is beginning to feel the pinch.

STEVE RIPLEY: Everything in our industry is disposable income. It's a luxury, you know? You don't have to go sailing.

NEUMAN: Scott Neuman, NPR News.

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