Boat sales drop for third straight month

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Recreational boat sales slipped in April for the third month in a row as the spring selling season continued to disappoint the industry.

Even the aluminum pontoon category, a standout during the recovery that began last year, lost ground. Pontoon sales fell 3.6 percent to 2,522 boats from the same month a year earlier in 30 early reporting states that comprise 67 percent of the national market, according to figures compiled by Statistical Surveys Inc.

Sales of aluminum fishing boats were up 3.8 percent to 3,365, helping to balance the decline among pontoons and typifying an up-and-down April pattern among the industry’s main powerboat segments, a group that consists of two aluminum and five fiberglass categories. Sales for the group were close to flat, falling 0.7 percent, or 70 boats, to 10,610.

Industrywide, sales in the early-reporting states were 5.2 percent lower for the month at 15,824 boats. A year ago, with all 50 states reporting, sales totaled 26,130 in April, up from 22,415 in the same month in 2011.

“There’s no way to sugarcoat [the April results],” said Ryan Kloppe, national marine sales manager at Statistical Surveys, noting the uneven category-to-category results.

Builders blamed poor March sales on chilly, wet early spring weather and Kloppe agreed that April was still a cold month in the Midwest, but he said the weather was improving by the end of the month, leaving no easy answer for why sales continue to lag.

Kloppe said he has spoken to dealers who told him they have made sales that haven’t been reported because the boats have yet to be delivered.

“I’m eagerly expecting the [50-state] quarterly numbers to see whether we can even out [some of the inconsistencies],” he said. Those figures will be available by mid-June.

With one month to go in the spring selling season, sales were down 3.9 percent for the year at 29,272 boats in the main segments and 8.1 percent industrywide at 42,710.

Sales of 11- to 40-foot outboard fiberglass boats managed a slim gain of 40, or 1.2 percent, to 3,463 in April, but the 14- to 30-foot inboard and sterndrive category saw sales fall 12.6 percent to 1,044 boats.

Sales in the bigger-boat categories were more encouraging. The 31- to 40-foot cruiser segment was up 11 boats to 116 and sales of 63- to 99-foot custom and semicustom yachts were up four at 25. Sales of 41- to 62-foot yachts lagged, falling by five boats, to 75. Sales figures in those three categories were complete for the early reporting states as the Coast Guard continued to stay up to date in its reports on sales of documented vessels.

Sales of jetboats fell 19.2 percent to 286 and sales of personal watercraft dropped 18 percent to 2,167, but the ski-boat segment showed growth. April sales rose by 4.5 percent, or 20 boats, to 468.

Sailboat sales rose for the second month in a row, climbing by 39, or 18.6 percent, to 249.

Click here for April boat sales.

— Jack Atzinger


9 comments on “Boat sales drop for third straight month

  1. Boat Biz

    When the Boat Business gets back to hiring real salespersons, and not those who fit into a round hole based on a personality test we will see the return to the industry. The salesperson today is either out of touch with internet marketing, responses, email, etc or lacks the skillset to learn the product and sell it. This includes owners and dealer principals. They are so sold on hiring the right person, based on a test that has nothing to do with selling and was created by nerds, they have lost touch. This is true across any number of business models and it is why, customers are frustrated and with a major purchase like this, choose to spend their money elsewhere. It is the direction we are headed folks, unless something changes. My vote, get rid of HR participation in hiring, go back to doing your homework and actually read resumes and conduct your own interviews. Your sales will increase shortly.

  2. Curtis

    The main reason new boat sales are down is the general boating public can not afford a $50,000 20 ft boat. You can go to the RV dealer and buy a camper or trailer for $10,000 to $20,000 and go have lots of fun. Boating has become a chore. Boat ramps are becoming harder to get into. People think boating is a hassle. I can’t tell you how many consignment boats have been brought in because of the hassles, we sell their boat and they go down to the RV store and buy a trailer. Until these types of issues are solved new boat sales will continue to slide.
    Buy the way the economy is still in the toilet, I don’t care what Obama says.
    Have a nice day

  3. Boatman

    The boating industry is going through a cycle what many similar industries have experienced. Inexperienced sales personnel and managers and company owners who’s only concern is profit. Customer service has suffered and so have the sales numbers. Hire people who like what they are doing, pay them fairly and listen to your customer feedback and your business will thrive, no matter what your competition may be experiencing.

  4. Dan

    It’s not the salesman. Unless the salesman can convince the customer that he NEEDS a boat, like he NEEDS food or a roof over his head, or unless he can put some disposable income in the customer’s pocket, it’s not the salesman.
    It’s the economy and when the economy changes, boat sales change.

  5. Captn Stumpy

    I agree…product knowledge is indeed a requisite, but with the internet people already know what they want, and the features boats have.

    I feel people knowledge is paramount. People buy for a variety of reasons, no matter what they buy. A vacuum cleaner, a car, clothing, and boats, ALL have emotions tied to their LIKES. Paint a picture of benefits, memories, of family fun, and how TIME is the enemy. IF THEY DON’T BUY NOW, WHEN…???

    Ask the right questions, and one will find out what that reason(s) is, but I guarantee emotion is up at the top. Paint a picture…then CLOSE, CLOSE, CLOSE…if you hurt their feelings, they’ll let you know. STOP BEATING AROUND THE BUSH, and CLOSE, CLOSE, CLOSE!!!

    One NEEDS an objection to CLOSE, CLOSE, CLOSE…so get one!

    A life long salesman…

  6. Don

    Traffic from all sources is down, inquiries are down, and there is a lack of urgency. It is not about the sales people, there are external factors here that are causing people to either go to a different leisure pursuit, save their money, or hold off until they feel better about the future.

  7. zyxw

    “It’s the economy, stupid.” We are still seeing record unemployment, stagnant wages, and lack of company investment due to the great real estate bubble meltdown. All those underwater mortgages are still underwater for the most part, and the lenders have tightened standards way up so fewer people can borrow. Plus, the chickens are coming home to roost for companies that gave up on entry level and lower-priced boats. Gas prices haven’t really gone down that much. Lots of economic headwinds for the industry.

  8. Roger Herd - United Yacht Sales

    Fortunately for all of us the consumer does not listen to us whine about the economy. Good sales people, and there are plenty of them out there, understand relationship sales and sing the praises of boat ownership in a way that benefits both the owner and the seller (broker/dealer).

    After the last election, many of us [republicans] projected doom and gloom for the coming year, but that was not to be. Much to our surprise, the consumer, who was tired of fence-watching decided it is time to get on with life and buy a boat or whatever mode of enjoyment they prefer. Fact is, sales are up for many of us but I am guessing it is due to a shift in market share. You have to be prepared to do it better than the competition. Promise more, deliver more.

    United Yacht is up almost 27% over 2012 and we continue to book more deals every day. I have great brokers who work hard to make deals work and we place a lot of emphasis on training and mentoring. A good broker is a “resource” not just a sales person and I continue to receive testimonial letters each week from grateful clients.

    The problem you need to be concerned about is the diminishing supply of late model used boats. Yes, this may spur manufacturing but it will take a couple of years for those boats to reach the used market. In the mean-time the competition for obtaining listings on quality, used, late model boats is going to become fierce. If your sales staff is not ready to sell potential clients on why they should list with you, your future may be bleak.

    If you need help on how to efficiently and effectively run a sales department, swallow your ego and call Bing Fishman, formerly of Grady White Boats. He was one of the best in the business.

  9. JJMcClure

    Yep, ‘getting on with their life’, just ignore the man behind the curtain, because the Great and Powerful OzBama say, “it’s all good! Don’t listen to the haters”.

    Of course, record debt, printing money, mammoth under-employment, and the looming baby boomer and student loan time bombs are irrelevant.

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