Boat Buyers: Women Shoppers Remain Buoyant

Over the past decade the marine industry has slowly been reshaped and continues to move on a trajectory towards a more inclusive, innovative and diverse industry. Historically, women have grappled with gender parity in the boating and yachting world. However, perceptions of the archetypal red-faced, cigar-smoking boat owner has been superseded by younger, mindful and socially conscious (and eco-conscious) individuals. The younger wave of female boat owners has implicit confidence in finding self-fulfillment among the waves. While gender equality in the industry moves in the right direction, there are still more men buying boats than women, however the gap is narrowing. From where we stand, all indications are that boating will continue to grow exponentially as an even greater pastime for all walks of life.

Sustained Trends: Female Boat Buying Behaviors

Boat Trader data reveals a seismic shift in women’s involvement in the boat buying process. The proliferation of women searching for boats has risen dramatically. In September 2020 Boat Trader documented a staggering 75% increase in women boat shoppers – representing a significantly higher volume than the previous season. Today, we’re pleased to announce Boat Trader’s latest data clearly illustrates an upward trend of women boat shoppers playing an increasingly integral part of the boat buying process across the country, in an ongoing industry progression that remains buoyant.

In fact, the number of women browsing Boat Trader in January and February 2021 saw an uptick of +23% over the same period last year. We have seen an increase in age groups across the board visiting the Boat Trader marketplace, but most notably, the number of millennial women aged 25 – 34 visiting the Boat Trader marketplace since last May soared, increasing by a whopping +76%.

The Driving Factors Behind The Surge In Women Boaters

During lockdown, women and mothers experienced increased isolation, prompting women to take their families to the water for some much needed freedom and fun. Boat Trader’s data also reveals that disruption precipitated by the pandemic bred a wave of boat enthusiasts and first-time boat owners.

Ryan McVinney of Boat Trader comments on one of the company’s key missions in 2021 and beyond, “We’re delivering boat-related content to inspire the current and future generations of young women who are interested in the marine industry. We aim to encourage more women to investigate the possibility of buying a boat and to explore how boats can positively impact their lifestyle.”

There is an opportunity for boat retailers to leverage women’s exposure to their boating products to incite more interest. Historically, women were an untapped consumer market in the yachting and boating industry. Hosting events where both males and females test out the boats is imperative to drive sales and facilitate more women getting out on the water.

Female Representation

It is not only women’s buying behaviors that are changing in the marine industry– there have been positive changes in the representation of women in yacht crews and management firms. There has also been a lot of media attention about women’s misrepresentation in senior roles aboard boats. The press coverage on diversity has spurned positive results. Advocates for diversity, such as Jenny Mathews, founder of She of the Sea, (SOTS) are making a difference by championing new ways of thinking through developing programs around education, best practice, support networks and events. SOTS have some of the biggest names in the industry have clamoured to sign their diversity pledge. Embracing a modern mindset which champions diversity and creating equal opportunities in the yachting industry is an effective way to ensure that the industry showcases the best talent.

Iconic Female Yacht Owners

Female self-made millionaire yacht owners have also helped to cultivate change in gender parity within the marine industry. Women who have helped facilitate change are J.K Rowling, Elena Ambrosiadou, Wendy Schmidt, Heidi Horten, and many other businesswomen. These role models provide a powerful platform to inspire other women to step into what has been considered a ‘Billionaires boys club’. These women actively use their influence to cultivate change through their businesses, nonprofits and philanthropic work.

Women relaxing on a boat

A female yacht owner relaxing. Image credit: Unsplash, Dmitry Tomashek

A Strategic Roadmap: Closing The Gender Gap In Boat Ownership

In a bid to close the gender gap in boat ownership, Boat Trader selects both male and female USCG-licensed boat captains, expert boat reviewers, marine journalists and real world boaters in equal measure. Through a gender-balanced view of the industry and reviews of boat products and models, the content is aimed to appeal to a diverse audience. This helps reduce potential barriers to boat ownership and operation as well as flatten the learning curve for newcomers as much as possible.

Part of what Boat Trader has set out to achieve is to inspire and empower women to chase their goals and dreams, to have confidence in their abilities, and to challenge other women to do the same throughout the boating industry and beyond. With more women actively shopping for boats, marine retailers have added opportunity to reach new demographics.

Leveraging Technology To Get The World On The Water

Boat Trader is hopeful that the number of women in yachting will continue to grow. To that end, the Boat Trader mobile app (available as an iPhone App or an Android/Google App) makes browsing and researching different types of boats easy, helping new boat shoppers understand what is on the market as well as the wide variety of boat values and pricing that can be overwhelming to newbies. With savable search alerts (that notify users when newly listed boats match their preferences), price drop notifications and a “boat near you” feature, this is a must-have tool for those that are seriously interested in buying a boat – whether they are actively shopping or just beginning to consider a future purchase later down the line (after they become a bit more familiar with the wide world of boating).

Boating Platforms And Apps Provide Easy Solutions

Other modern platforms – such as Boatsetter – are also ideal for women (and men) who want to test the water first to get some firsthand driving experience handling a boat themselves. On this platform, new boaters and boat shoppers can rent out or charter a boat for the day to experience the benefits of that model’s key features, ultimately helping them to make an informed purchase decision. Rental platforms like these are perfect for the younger generation of women who might not have the confidence to join a local boat club yet (although that is another great idea). In truth, the perfect on-the-water-experience is just one click away. If you enjoy it, it may be worth getting a few lessons on the water.

Additionally, there are a slew of other mobile boating apps, such as Snag-A-Slip, that are helping open up the boating world to more enthusiasts and boating novices by making it easier to find resources such as gas, supplies, marinas and even secure temporary, transient or more permanent boat storage options.

Women’s Boating Programs

Ladies Let’s Go Fishing is a long-standing example of programs helping women to be comfortable in the boating and fishing environment. As a Wellcraft employee, Betty Bauman realized that women were largely absent in fishing because they hadn’t had exposure to the sport. She created Ladies Let’s Go Fishing so that women would not feel intimidated learning around men, “The camaraderie that women feel at a Ladies Let’s Go Fishing event is tangible,” says Marilyn DeMartini, a long-time marine journalist and marketer who has participated in both salt and freshwater classes. “We learn, while having fun, from women and men, the details of knots, baits, casting, and equipment. The skills that we learn give us confidence to go out on a fishing boat without feeling like a ‘dumb broad,’” she laughs.

Ladies at the Helm is another training program available offering training to women in boat handling and seamanship to help women to gain confidence in their knowledge and skills.

If you have an insatiable appetite for adventure, and are curious to learn more, partake in a training course, or rent out a boat to see if the boating life appeals. You never know, you might just end up becoming a boating aficionado in a matter of months, just in time for the boating season.

Written by: Emma Coady

Emma Coady is a freelance writer and marine journalist who creates content for many household names in the boating industry, including YachtWorld, Boat Trader and boats.com. She also writes for several boat builders as well as charter and rental companies and regularly contributes to Greenline Hybrid yachts, TJB Super Yachts and Superyachts Monaco. Emma is the founder of Cloud Copy and enjoys traveling around Europe, spending as much of her spare time as possible in or on the water.

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