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Business Observer Friday, Nov. 15, 2019 4 months ago

Economic forecast 2020: Boating

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Travis Fricke, Fish Tale Boats, Fort Myers
by: Jay Schlichter Lee-Collier Editor

Company: Husband-and-wife team Diane and Bruce Fricke purchased Fort Myers-based boating dealership and service center Fish Tale Boats more than two decades ago. Since the passing of the family’s patriarch in 2010, the company has been run by the remaining members of the Fricke clan — Diane and her two sons, Travis and Justin, along with some 40 employees. After surviving the recession, the company has been performing well the past several years, Travis Fricke says, proof which can be seen from expansion into larger facilities and new locations around Southwest Florida. Today, the company operates out of three spots — Fort Myers, Naples and Bonita Springs.

Opportunities: Travis Fricke says owning a boating business in Southwest Florida and the state as a whole is fortunate since many people come to the area specifically to get on the water and end up buying some type of watercraft. The state’s population is expected to follow its continual upward trend, he adds, meaning many more potential buyers are heading their way. 

While he doesn’t believe the economy is headed for another recession despite some percolating economic reports to the opposite, Fricke says the firm also doesn't expect sales to continue the torrid pace. (He declines to disclose specific revenue figures.) Instead, he says the boating industry is seeing a trend of people buying larger, more expensive boats, which helps companies like Fish Tale survive when sales slow. “Right now, we’re at a good position in the market. We want to hold where we are.”

Threats: Travis Fricke says the boating industry is performing better thanks partially to new fishing regulations that allow for less restrictive seasons and times for certain species. Previously, those rules were a big threat to the industry, he says, because fishing enthusiasts in the region often had to travel at least 100 miles offshore to catch fish like red snapper. 

Another industry worry? Boating slips and marina spaces are becoming harder to come by, meaning boaters have fewer spots to dock or store their craft when not out on the water.

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