British Marine poll reveals polarisation in UK industry

British Marine launches latest industry sentiment poll

A sentiment poll by UK trade body, British Marine, which tracks quarterly sales performance and outlook among its members, reveals a diverse landscape for the UK marine industry. The findings for Q4 2023 show that 23 per cent of members saw a rise in sales compared to the same period last year, and 57 per cent feel optimistic about their future (+2 percentage points from the last survey in June 2023).

However, alongside this, 51 per cent experienced a decline, while 26 per cent witnessed no notable change in their sales, highlighting the industry’s mixed fortunes.

Key Points from British Marine’s sentiment poll for Q4 2023:

Sales growth for Q4 of 2023 remains unchanged from the third quarter (Q3) of 2023. During Q3, 24 per cent of members reported an increase in sales, while 52 per cent experienced a decrease in sales.

Results for both Q3 and Q4 2023 represent a decline on the previous survey, which was run in June 2023, at the height of the boating season. The percentage of businesses reporting a fall in sales has increased, from 39 per cent in Q2 to 51 per cent in Q4 2023.

These figures are influenced by several factors, not just the challenging economic conditions businesses face due to high inflation, interest rates and declining consumer spending. They reflect the continued normalisation of demand post-pandemic, leading to year-on-year sales declines since 2021, although overall sales still remain at or above pre-Covid levels.

The speed of this change in demand has, of course, been shaped by inflation. However, it also follows a natural correction to the inflated consumer spending levels seen during the pandemic.

Despite slowing sales, and considering the mitigating factors mentioned above, the sentiment within the industry remains upbeat. This optimism is fuelled by the resilience of sectors like manufacturing, equipment supply, and business services, particularly those catering to broader markets beyond local or domestic confines.

This recent member feedback indicates a polarisation in the industry’s fortunes. Boating tourism, boat sales, and servicing are slowing due to economic pressures and seasonal factors. In contrast, sectors not limited to local or seasonal markets, such as manufacturing, business services and sectors supplying the EU and US, continue to show resilience.

Green Blue Boating Pledge launch at SIBS 2022
Lesley Robinson, British Marine chief executive

“As the recent British Marine Sentiment Poll highlights, it has been a period of mixed fortunes for the marine industry,” says Lesley Robinson, CEO of British Marine. “While some sectors have faced challenges, others continue to show resilience and growth. This diversity reflects the varying impacts of external economic conditions and market shifts.

“Despite these challenges, there is a prevailing sense of adaptability and cautious optimism within the industry, especially in areas like manufacturing and business services, which have demonstrated notable strength.”

The full infographic report can be viewed online (members only).

British Marine is the trade association for the UK leisure, superyacht and small commercial marine industry. It has over 1,500 members drawn from seagoing and inland sectors and represents an industry that employs more than 36,000 people in the UK.

The sample for British Marine’s Sentiment Poll includes all eligible companies currently in membership and covers all industry sectors represented by British Marine. This includes boatbuilding, boat sales, equipment supply, marina and boatyard services, boating tourism and related consumer and business services.

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