NMMA report: More boaters, fewer sales in 2010

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Of the 231.5 million adults living in the United States in 2010, 32.4 percent – or 75 million – participated in recreational boating, according to findings from the National Marine Manufacturers Association’s annual Recreational Boating Statistical Abstract.

This is the highest proportion of participation in recreational boating since 1999, when 33.4 percent of adults were boating participants, according to the NMMA. These 75 million boaters represent an increase of 14 percent from the recessionary year of 2009, which saw 65.9 million boaters.

There were 1,118,130 total power- and sailboats sold in 2010 (not including canoes and kayaks) a 4 percent decrease, compared with 2009.

New power- and sailboat unit sales totaled 188,230 in 2010, a decrease of 10 percent, compared with 2009’s decrease in unit sales of 35 percent, signaling that the rate of decline in new-boat sales is slowing.

There were 929,900 used boats sold in 2010, a decrease of 2.4 percent, compared with 2009, a likely result of continuing pent-up demand for boats and consumers looking for lower price points in the used market.

In the new-boat market, sales of outboard boats, often small fishing or water sports boats, fared best, declining 4 percent, compared with 2009. There were 112, 800 new outboard boats sold in 2010. In the used market, sales of sterndrive boats, typically boats of less than 26 feet, remained steady, increasing .03 percent, compared with 2009. There were 175,800 used sterndrive boats sold in 2010.

Overall, recreational boating retail expenditures for boats, engines, trailers, accessories and services totaled $30.4 billion in 2010, a 1 percent decline from the previous year.

The NMMA also reported that aftermarket accessory sales increased 6 percent, to $2.4 billion (from $2.3 billion in 2009), and spending per boat averaged $147 for 2010, also up 6 percent from 2009.

The NMMA notes that there are an estimated 17 million boats in use in the United States.

“Despite decreases in new-boat sales last year, the industry remains alive and well, as existing boaters took to the water in record numbers and had a willingness to spend on their boats and boating outings,” NMMA president Thom Dammrich said in a statement. “Increases in participation and spending on the aftermarket equal good news for the industry, as it tells us boating remains a recreational activity Americans aren’t willing to forgo in times of economic recession.”

Dammrich also said boaters expect to get in the water this year, despite rising gas prices.

In August 2008, at the start of the recession, when gas prices were last above $4 a gallon, the NMMA and Michigan State University’s Recreational Marine Research Center conducted a survey of 2,211 powerboat owners who went boating between January and July of 2008. The survey found that 99 percent continued to go boating in 2008 despite rising fuel prices. In fact, boating participation increased 6 percent in 2008, to 70 million (from 66 million in 2007).

“We expect boaters to continue boating this summer, as economic indicators which impact boating habits, such as consumer confidence and consumer spending, are faring much better than they were three years ago, when we last saw $4-per-gallon fuel prices,” Dammrich said.

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6 comments on “NMMA report: More boaters, fewer sales in 2010

  1. bill gardella

    A statistic overdue is how many Americans are doing there boating, either entry level or re-entering, through the various shared-use business models, like Boating Clubs, including Sailtime, Pinnacle, and the many independent operations, and also Fractional.

    I believe you will find a large uptrend of Americans using shared- use boating to enter our world, and a good percentage moving on to buy a boat, or at least part of one.

    Having access to the facts, not just anecdotes, should help the industry focus on pathways to growth.

    Shared-use is not a problem- it is part of the solution and can be integrated into Grow Boating very nicely.

  2. Bruce

    Wow! we were off 10% in 2010 with 188,000 new power and sail, 35% in 2009 and have started off down in 2011. Does anyone know what year we peaked and how many new power and sail boats were sold that year?

  3. Pedro

    After 30+ years in the marine industry ( and many $$$ sent to NMMA) I once again must harp about real versus meaningless statistics. # and type of new boat sales has some real value; same info on used boat sales is highly suspect at best since too many (or few) private transactions are accurately reported. My biggest gripe continues to be this baloney about the % of the population who participate in recreational boating.

    I’ve spent too many years living in both Northern lake regions and on the coasts of Florida and Alabama to buy into this. Even though this is my livelihood and my passion, I’ve never been able to come up with more than 10% of my friends and acquaintances who have been on a boat more than once a year – I say more than once since a single yearly Sunday afternoon cruise surely does not show any significant interest. So, while so called participant percentages are good for those trying to sell advertising or marketing programs or show space, it has no value for those of us who must build or move the product.

  4. Thom Dammrich

    The used boat data in the NMMA’s Annual Boating Abstract is provided to NMMA by Infolink and is derived from boat registration data provided by the states. It takes into account every change in ownership of a registered boat whether a private sale or through a dealer.

    We report 17 million boats in use in the US. Since many boat owners own more than one boat, that represents about 11-12% of US households that own a boat. Boating participation measures adults who have gone boating at least once. If you have never had a boating experience, it is unlikely you would buy a boat. Boating participation is correlated with usage of boats which affects sales of aftermarket products, marinas, etc. All of these statistics have their greatest value in NMMA government relations advocacy on behalf of the industry and in promoting boating through our PR efforts with the consumer media.

  5. Poncho

    “consumer confidence and consumer spending, are faring much better than they were three years ago” Really Thom??? spending on food, gas, & TP maybe … boaters will always go boating, as golfers will still go golfing but at a public course not the CC. This is not news, or shouldn’t be…Here’s news : bait stores are doing better because folks now are fishing for dinner…

  6. jedg

    I would have to agree with Pedro’s general assessment of the existing boat market, however I’d put the % or ratio higher. I’m in the process of selling the patent on a marine hose connection/disconnection system I hold and I’ve had to worked up a marketing outlook using older NMMA and other data. Last year I went around to a series of boat yards and talked to the yard owners to get a sense of how many boats would remain on the hard and how many boats actually were used when in the water. It’s amazing how many never get launched and how many never get used if launched.

    I estimated that about 1 in 4 boats in the existing boat market is either a boat recently sold or still being used enough to be considered as part of a viable (work generating) marine market. My estimate was that there are around 5,000,000 existing boats, at best, that will actually be used this year in any significant way. By that I mean, the owners will be spending money on their use and repair.

    The fact that spending per boat averaged only $147.00 suggests that a lot of boats aren’t being used. An average statistic is meaningless without the corresponding median value. It’s really important to see the distribution.

    Is there a way to have an off line conversation with people like Pedro and others?

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