Leisure is America's fastest growing occupation. The trend is toward more active types of sports and other pastimes. Fastest growing sports include golfing, hunting, archery, fishing, skiing and, of course, boating and bowling. Take a historical look at where the industry has been:
Americans spent a total of $43 billion for pastimes in 1960 against $41 billion in 1959. By the end of the 1960s, leisure spending is expected to reach $50 billion. No wonder experts call the current boom in leisure-time activities a "leisure revolution."
Dollarwise, boating and bowling along with photography represent the top groups in leisure spending. Spending on boating alone ran to $2 5 billion in 1959. The number of boats in use for fun jumped from 2.4 million in 1947 to 4.3 million in 1952 and to 7.8 million in 1960.
The boating boom springs from a desire to get away from growing crowds on the highways and at land-based recreational centers, in addition to the more generalized cause of increased leisure time.
Of relatively recent origin, the boating market had until World War II been limited almost entirely to luxury yachts for millionaires or racing boats for sportsmen. Now, boat ownership has come within such easy reach of most Americans that it will probably not take long to make an outboard motor almost as common as an automobile.
Contributing to this boat boom was the revolution in the industry's production methods which made volume production possible. Here fiberglass played a key role. While a wooden boat must be hand-crafted by skilled workers, a fiberglass boat is made in a mold. Fiberglass boats are not only cheaper to buy, but are also more durable and require less maintenance. So we have seen the growing popularity of fiberglass boats which jumped from only 2.2 percent in 1953 of the industry total in the smaller boat category to 40 percent in 1959.
The plastic boat market is expected to further increase its share of total boat sales. This belief is based on the superior qualities of plastic boats over competing (not only wood, but also aluminum) models.
Entering the pleasure boat field in a grand way was Brunswick-Balke-Collender Company, now known as Brunswick Corporation which successively acquired Owens Yacht Company (a producer of large wood boats and luxury yachts) and Larson Boat Works (a manufacturer of fiberglass pleasure craft). Brunswick had been mainly known as a bowling equipment maker.
Another important factor in boating is NAFI Corporation whose stock went as high as 66d in 1960 compared with only l5 1/2 in early February of that year before its acquisition of Chris-Craft. Chris-Craft is one of the biggest factors in pleasure boats. NAFI hit a 1961 low of 25 Ÿ.
Though still very young, the boating industry has already shown some signs of tiring as evidenced by the decline, in the boat segment of the outboard industry, of more than 5 percent in 1960 from the record year of 1959. The downturn, coming at a time of continued heavy production by most major boat and motor makers, touched off a price-cutting spree.
Span-American Boat Company, for example, in late 1960 slashed the price to dealers on one line of fifteen-foot fiberglass boats from $768 to $549. The boat carried a suggested list price of $1,098, equipped. This price chopping was attributed largely to an imbalance between sales and production, with a resultant heavy inventory. Much of the price-cutting was centered in plastic and fiberglass boats.
"Some of the glamour seems to have disappeared from fiberglass and plastic boats," said Gus Linell, sales manager of Parson Corporation's Lake and Sea Division. "There's been a realization on the part of the public that these boats are not entirely maintenance free."
What was true then still holds true to day -- Americans continue to spend money on leisure pursuits, and savvy investors can take advantage of the continued growth in the leisure industry.