But investors who look more closely at the boating industry may see that demand is alive and well. The real problem holding the sector back is a glut of supply.
When the crisis hit, many boat owners who weren't seriously rich became eager to unload what they didn't need. That created a flood of used but still relatively young boats on the market at deeply depressed prices. The result was that used boats became far more attractive than new boats to potential buyers. At the same time, owners who wanted to sell or exchange their existing boats had less money to use toward new purchases.
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But sooner or later, the supply of attractive used boats is bound to run short. While new boat sales volume is still depressed, used boat transactions are happening as frequently as ever. On its most recent earnings call in January, Brunswick said that used boat sales transactions surpassed pre-crisis levels in 2012 and likely did so again in 2013.
One key catalyst: Boats eventually get too old to buy. Indeed, Conder points out that consumers only tend to buy boats that are under 25 to 30 years old. That's important because the number of boats manufactured after 1990 declined sharply as companies tried to focus on larger vessels.
The upshot is that the used boat market, currently around 800,000 units annually, could contract by 180,000 units in 2015, Conder estimates. That could shift a huge amount of demand to the new boat market, currently under 200,000 units.
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Financing also doesn't appear to be an impediment to new boat purchases. While lenders have become more prudent since the crisis, they tend to require a 15 percent to 25 percent down payment, which hasn't been a major issue for dealers, according to Gregory Badishkanian, an analyst at Citigroup.
A pick up in boat sales would likely deliver an immediate and long-awaited boost to Brunswick's profits. While the company has streamlined its costs, the boat division still booked a slight operating loss in 2013 on roughly $1 billion in sales.
Of course, some larger boats, such as those longer than 50 or 60 feet, might take longer to recover. But Brunswick has pared back its exposure to that segment with last year's sale of its Hatteras and Cabo brands of motor yachts. It has also designed and manufactured some new models in the yacht category within the brands it has kept.