Lake of the Ozarks ranks top five in sales.
With nearly 55,000 surface acres and over 1,100 miles of shoreline, it is no wonder Lake of the Ozarks is a mecca for watersports like boating, fishing, sailing and skiing. Spend enough time on the water and you will see everything from large cruisers to sailboats and kayaks to paddleboards.
Adding to the Lake’s geographical location and physical characteristics is the recognition this area received in 2015 when USA Today readers voted it best recreational lake in the United States, topping 19 other nominees.
The Lake’s founder, Union Electric, could not have anticipated the entertainment, cultural, retail and boating industry that would evolve in the last 75 years.
According to the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), new boat sales in Missouri hit $339 million in 2016, a nine percent increase over 2015. Missouri now ranks 16th in the nation for new boat sales but if you ask the most popular boat manufacturers whose boats are sold here, they will profess that Lake of the Ozarks ranks in the top five nationally in sales for their products.
With these facts in mind, we talked to a representative group of boat dealers around the Lake about their business, technology and how social media affects sales.
Our first call was to Sport World Boat Center in Sunrise Beach where they sell Ranger boats, Evinrude outboards and Landau pontoons. They were the 2017 Dealer of the Year for the Evinrude Outboard’s Western Division.
“One trend that continues to surprise me is the demand for larger pontoons and tritoons with motors up to 300 horsepower. Another is the retail price of today’s bass boats… with customers trading in a $45,000 boat for one that costs $80,000,” said Gary Burris, owner for the last 20 years. He also noted how recent Minimum Advertised Price (MAP) structures for some boats have affected sales outside the immediate geography.
In Osage Beach, we discussed technology and customer awareness methods with Amanda Rowden, marketing director at Iguana Boat Sales. This dealer began 10 years ago as a boat rental business and grew rapidly from there, having been recognized as the 2017 Reader’s Choice (Lake Sun newspaper), Lake Area Chamber of Commerce Large Business of the Year, Best Boat Dealer in Missouri, Godfrey Gold Sales Award (Top 10 Nationally) and the No. 5 Cruisers dealer in the world to name a few.
Their product line includes cruisers, pontoons, deck and ski boats. Boat technology and social media have taken on important roles in the industry and to their business.
“One change has been the introduction of the joy sticks in large boats like cruisers. They make a boat much easier to handle and dock. Another change is our use of social media,” said Rowden. She does on-the-water videos of their boats and then adds them to the Iguana Boats Facebook page, giving customers the opportunity to see a boat in action from wherever they may be.
Next, we went upstream to Warsaw and talked with Don Schlesselman at Angler’s Port Marine, dealer for Blazer, Legend and Phoenix boats plus the Lowe Boats line. Angler’s Port has been in business for about 20 years and under new ownership for the last two. According to Schlesselman, they have seen a dramatic change in buyer knowledge.
“They have already used digital media to not only pick a brand but the model too. Having that homework done actually works better for both the dealer and the buyer,” he said.
And finally, we talked to Tyler Sanders, sales manager at All About Boats in Osage Beach, where they sell fiberglass bowriders and center console boats plus pontoons. He expects pontoons to continue strong in 2018 with focus on the longer, higher horsepower models.
“Customers are looking for larger, more luxurious models with enough horsepower to handle a fully-loaded boat,” said Sanders. He also sees a move to outboards on fiberglass boats, even up to the 25 or 27-foot range, because they can be used all year as opposed to an inboard that must be winterized then stored until spring.
We found much optimism among these dealers that 2018 will be a very good year for all boat categories, from pontoons to large cruisers, especially if the excellent early boat show sales are an indicator.