Across the Pond

Written by Lucie Gardiner

Written by Lucie Gardiner

We take a look at the American superyacht landscape ahead of the 2023 Fort Lauderdale international Boat Show, and find that uncertainty, resilience, and transformation lie ahead.

As the world at large adjusts following the covid pandemic, the U.S. superyacht industry finds itself in the middle of a market adjustment, offering a complex but optimistic forecast. While the early post-pandemic rush may be levelling off, data and trends suggest a vibrant, resilient market still flush with opportunities.

Whilst demand from the smaller production boats is slowing in sales from previous years, vessels over 34 feet persist to be in high demand. This divergence underlines an industry attempting to align its compass with market desires. The resilience in the large yacht market is more than mere numbers; it suggests a renewed emphasis on craftsmanship, luxury, and technological prowess in the face of economic and social changes.

The industry, it seems, is realigning with its seasonal beats. Richard Strauss CEO of Teak Decking Systems remarked that “Inquiries and quotes have resumed their seasonal trends. For many in the industry, this is a sign of stabilisation—a return to cycles that allow for more precise planning, financial structuring, and long-term growth.”

Financial Forecasts are stable but forward-Looking IMARC Group data projects a relatively robust market, expected to grow at a 9.7% rate from 2023 to 2028. The market valuation, estimated to reach $4.7 billion by 2028, largely reflects consumer priorities of efficiency, performance, and luxurious amenities. If nothing else, the market’s fiscal outlook provides a foundational stability upon which innovation can be built.

October brings the 63rd Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show (FLIBS) spanning a massive 90 acres over seven sites, and pulling in a global audience. Beyond mere spectacle, FLIBS contributes significantly to the Floridian economy, adding $1.79 billion in economic output and generating substantial tax revenue. Ben Farnborough, COO of Denison Yachts, finds the “huge amount of interest” at FLIBS indicative of a market poised for growth. Denison alone will have over 20 yachts on display at this year’s show.

While the South, particularly Florida, remains the gravitational centre for the U.S. superyacht industry, other regions are stepping up. New York, San Francisco, and Seattle are becoming thriving superyacht markets, each contributing their unique socio-cultural flair to the industry’s evolving identity.

Perhaps the most palpable transformation comes in the embrace of technological advancements. From automation systems to hybrid propulsion technologies, the superyacht industry is becoming increasingly efficient and eco-conscious. Sustainability, in particular, is now seen as a core business strategy, a pivot that stands to redefine the market in the coming years.

A decline in sales isn’t always a bad omen; sometimes it’s a necessary recalibration. As noted by Jeff Palmer, President of United Yacht Sales, the sales climate reflects complex factors, from interest rates to insurance challenges. Yet, the market continues to see robust transactions—a clear indicator of its resilience and dynamism.

Recent industry data reveals a 49% decline in sales compared to the same time last year for boats over 40 feet with a $500,000 asking price. Despite a dip in April 2023, May recorded a slight uptick, although with lower sale prices and longer market days. Such fluctuations, while unsettling, can be instructive. They remind the industry to maintain a balanced portfolio, ready to adapt to market forces.

The U.S. superyacht market is at an inflexion point. The market is morphing, dictated not just by immediate consumer behaviour but by technological advancements and global trends. While the return to familiar cycles offers a semblance of normality, the changes of the past few years have indelibly marked the industry, forcing it into new realms of operation, innovation, and strategy.

As the industry steers towards FLIBS 2023, it does so with a composite vision – one that blends traditional market wisdom with modern adaptability. In these times of change, resilience is the new luxury, and the American superyacht market appears poised to exhibit plenty of both.

The industry is clearly in a transition, one teetering between traditional cycles and unforeseeable influences. As we move to the end of a transitional year in the superyacht industry, there is a collective realisation that the market is less about reacting to immediate changes and more about preparing for a future defined by resilience, sustainability, and technological evolution.


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