Letter from France | Are Senior citizens the lifeline of our industry?

January is traditionally the most quiet month of the year. Retail shops, small businesses and restaurants are often closed for holidays, citizens need to recover from the bustling Christmas period, and the cold weather make them want to stay at home. But this is also the time to plan summer holidays, to consider projects for the coming months and… dream of the boating season! Usually, the Paris Boat Show vapour is still in the air, and some other ones prepare themselves for another dip into Boot Düsseldorf…

January 2021 is not quiet but desperately boring. Paris Boat Show last December was cancelled, Boot Düsseldorf is postponed to hopefully but uncertain better times, Covid-19 pandemic is ever more threatening while vaccines are being doled out. Lockdown, restrictions or bans are announced by the government every week, and our near future is foggy. Meetings are scarce even prohibited, travelling abroad is impossible, homework has become the norm, cinemas and theatres are closed and opportunities to party are nonexistent.

Anyway, we should find reasons to rejoice! Calm will come again after the storm and if we look to the situation, everything is not all doom and gloom. The boat dealers have placed strong orders last Autumn with the boat manufacturers and the main boatyards are actually busy for the next season. There are still many projects of marina rejuvenation, and pontoon manufacturers seem to report pretty good sales. The demand of berths in coastal marinas is still sustained and the most coveted ones notice a rise of their waiting list…

Even if we have seen newcomers and younger boating participants for the first time in many years, last summer, the fact that a strong part of our customers is over 60 might be a major asset. Our customers are usually retired and collect a pension. Their income has not been impacted so much by the sanitary crisis, they leave on the coast or away from the big cities and have not suffered as much as active people during the last months. If boating becomes a leisure for senior people, it might finally be good news!

Therefore, we must pay a particular attention to the ergonomics of our product offer, and this is what the major boatbuilders and marina equipment manufacturers do. Easing the movements around the boat, putting the right handrail or grab bar where it is suitable, on the boat but on the gangways to access the pontoons too… EBI Breakfast Meeting at Boot Düsseldorf put this issue at its presentation a few years ago. This is more relevant than ever!

In a world where constraints and regulations are a threat to freedom, there is nothing more cheerful than surfing in the waves when it’s windy, rainy and cold. Surfboarders, kite surfers, windsurfers, nothing can stop them, even in January 2021 when the pandemic is at its peak.

This is what I see when I walk on the beach, and this is tremendously encouraging. Boating is not only for senior citizens, but the last space of liberty for younger ones!

Jean-Michel Gaigné CMM | GMBA-France
+ 33 682 112 524
jm.gaigne@gmba.blue


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