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Sunnier days expected for Perham's Lund boat business

Lund Boat Company's Matt Geiser was on hand to greet customers at the Hoot's Sports show, which was held March 19-21.

Reflecting back on the cool summer of 2009 and the economic meltdown of the same year-everybody is looking ahead to a pleasant summer.

Not least of all, those in the recreational and fishing boat business-like Mike Parta and the crew at Hoot's Sports, Perham.

"Summer finally came in September last year," commented Mike Parta, amid a showroom full of boats and pontoons, at the Hoots early spring boat show March 20.

There's no denying it: sales of non-essential, bigger-ticket merchandise, like boats, were in a serious slump in 2009.

"It is starting out much stronger this year than last year," said Parta. "I think people are feeling a little better about the economy, there aren't as many unknowns."

In the relatively prosperous East Otter Tail lake country, Parta believes the downturn wasn't as devastating-but uncertainty and caution prevented those who may have been interested from buying a boat.

"We don't have the negativism we had last year," noted Matt Geiser, assistant sales manager for New York Mills-based Lund Boat Company. "People who weren't buying last year are a little less nervous; they still have their jobs; and they are thinking they're ready to buy a boat."

There's plenty of inventory to meet demand, and the price is right, said Geiser.

One of the main stumbling blocks is tight credit.

"Financing is tougher now, and customers will need more of a down payment," noted Geiser.

Parta and Geiser are both optimistic there will be at least a modest revitalization in the boat business.

"The signs are all there for a good summer. The snow is off, the ice may be off early...the signs are all there for a good sum mer," said Parta. "We might have an extra month of boating this year."