Wave Of Consumer Demand May Create Boat Shortage In Canada

The Virtual Toronto Boat Show runs until January 24, 2021 at TorontoBoatShow.com. Registration is FREE. (Photo by Dave Sandford) (CNW Group/Toronto International Boat Show)

Majority of exhibitors at the Virtual Toronto International Boat Show anticipate inventory will be sold-out or in low supply by spring

The 2021 Virtual Toronto international Boat Show got underway this week to eager Canadians in the market for new or used boats, and marine accessories.   Boating and water activities soared in popularity at the onset of the pandemic last year, and shows no signs of slowing down. Many in the boating industry are forecasting a second wave of unprecedented demand in 2021 that may imminently create a boat shortage in Canada.

“Many people may not realize that in a normal year, if you waited until the weather gets warmer to start thinking about buying a boat, it’s already too late,” says Linda Waddell, Director of the Toronto Boat Show. “We continue to see from the number of comments and high engagement at the virtual show, that there’s a heightened sense of urgency – driven by the pandemic – to get an earlier start on planning for the boating season.”

It’s not just customers who are rushing to get their hands on new boats; boat dealers are too.  Manufacturing, logistics, and supply chain challenges have slowed inventory, making it difficult to keep up with demand.

In a survey by the Toronto Boat Show, 80% of participating boat dealers/exhibitors indicated they anticipate current inventory to be in low supply, if not sold-out, within the next few months (by May 2021).

As well, comparing last year to 2019:

  • 80% of exhibitors experienced a significant increase in enquiries/sales from new boaters and first-time buyers
  • 50% of exhibitors noted an increase in enquiries/sales from customers under the age of 40
  • 40% of exhibitors estimated that overall sales increased by 15% – 25%
  • Pontoons, bowriders, and the personal watercraft such as Sea-Doos and WaveRunners were some of the top-selling categories in 2020 among boat show exhibitors

Click here to view full survey release.

“Although boat sales were strong in 2020, lack of inventory is stumping prospective revenues for Canadian boat dealers – with an estimated 95% who rely on manufacturing and parts from the US and abroad,” said Rick Layzell, CEO of the Boating Ontario Association, that represents 500+ members of the recreational boating industry in Ontario including marinas and dealers. “Boat dealers continue to face many of the same challenges as other sectors in terms of supply chain disruptions due to the pandemic, and there’s very little they can do about it.”

Transport Canada issued a record number of Pleasure Craft Operator Cards (PCOC) in 2020, an increase of approximately 75% compared to 2019.  This marks the highest number of new boater licences in Canada over the past six years. The influx of new boaters and new boat purchasers has not only impacted boat sales, but has also had a positive ripple effect across many facets of the boating sector including marinas, insurance and financing brokers, boating certifications and education.

The Virtual Toronto Boat Show runs until January 24, 2021 at TorontoBoatShow.com. Registration is FREE.

The annual event is Canada’s largest boat show and the first consumer event of the year for Canadian boat dealers, manufacturers, marinas, services, and accessories related to the boating lifestyle. More boats are purchased at the Toronto International Boat Show than at any other place or event in Canada. Direct revenues across Canada’s core recreational boating industry total nearly $5 billion per year, and directly employ approximately 45,000 Canadians. (NMMA Canada – The Economic Impact of Recreational Boating in Canada, 2016).


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