When the Great Recession hit, potential boat buyers headed for safe harbor – and stayed there.

Now a few are venturing out, as consumer confidence has strengthened somewhat, according to a report in the Star News, Wilmington, N.C.

“We have been seeing an uptick and slow recovery for the industry,” said Ellen Hopkins, spokeswoman for the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), a Chicago-based trade group.

“Last year was the first time we started to see some growth,” Hopkins continued. She said the group anticipates a 10% increase this year over 2011.

Figures from the marine manufacturers association show just how far sales had fallen. Total spending on power boats, trailers and accessories in North Carolina totaled $504.3 million in 2008, but by 2010 had plunged to $360.9 million, according to the industry group’s figures.

Last year saw an 11.6% rebound in the state, however, to $402.8 million, ranking North Carolina No. 7 in the nation in expenditures.

“It’s been difficult but we’re certainly coming back,” said Tricia Bennett, president of Bennett Brothers Yachts, which does restoration and repair of craft ranging all the way up to Coast Guard cutters.

“There’s been an increase in sales, which started about mid-year. The low point was about two years ago, and it’s been slowly coming back. People put projects on hold.”

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