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Boat sales changing, but retailer is optimistic

POSTED: July 24, 2008 5:00 a.m.
SARA GUEVARA /The Times

Stored boats sit in dry docks Thursday at Gainesville Marina. Many lake business owners say their businesses are changing, not declining, as a result of lower lake levels.

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Brent Danneman is tired of everyone being so negative about Lake Lanier.

"Lake Lanier still has almost 30,000 acres underwater. That is a lot of water. That is still the single largest reservoir in the state of Georgia to use for recreation." Danneman said. "There's still a lot of water out there to use."

Danneman, the vice president of Park Marine Boating Centers, said he hasn't sold as many boats this year but still has maintained a profitable business.

"We are down. I would be remiss to say we are not down, but sales are still good ... we're optimistic about the future," Danneman said.

Park Marine's sales have changed this summer because gas prices are around $4 per gallon.

"We've changed our direction with the way we carry our inventory. The larger boats have declined a little bit in sales. We see the smaller boats and personal crafts pick up very strongly because of the fuel efficiency of them," Danneman said.

Danneman said people are using their boats differently now because of the shallower water. He said in past summers, skiing and tubing behind speed boats was common. This summer, he has seen more people boating out to swim and have picnics on the beaches.

"There's a different style of boating. Used to be everybody ran up and down the lake eight hours a day, but now they're pulling up on the beaches," Danneman said. "More relaxation. More sitting than running."

Because of fuel prices and the economy, Danneman said he believes some people are looking to local recreation like boating on Lake Lanier instead of going on family vacations.

"A boat is an asset," he said. "If you buy five years' vacation, you've got some pictures and Polaroids and beautiful memories. If you buy a boat or a Jet Ski, at least you've got a tangible asset that is worth something. You've used it five years and it still has a value to it."

Danneman said he predicted this year would yield slower sales and ordered fewer products.
"We decreased our inventory. We saw what was happening and we decreased our purchases accordingly," he said.

But to balance the lower sales, Danneman said Park Marine has had an increase in customers bringing boats in for service and repair, although he is not sure why.

"Our service business is 50 percent ahead of last year. Our service business is just running wild right now," Danneman said. "Good service revenues will offset when sales revenues are down."



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