Weather took its toll on 1Q boat sales

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A nearly complete picture of first-quarter recreational boat sales has come into view and the results are no better than they previously appeared to be.

With 47 states reporting, Statistical Surveys said today that sales in the industry’s main powerboat segments fell 4.4 percent for the quarter to 22,456, compared with the same period in 2012, and they were 8 percent lower industrywide at 31,944.

The report covered all states except Maine, Illinois and Hawaii, or 96 percent of the national totals.

The results confirmed a trend that prior but less complete reports had identified. In an April report that included 27 early-reporting states, Statistical Surveys said sales for the quarter were 4.2 percent lower in the main segments and 7.5 percent lower industrywide.

“It almost mirrored them,” Statistical Surveys national marine sales manager Ryan Kloppe said of the broader results.

Kloppe said the wider data were not surprising because the weather in the early spring was poor in much of the country, but he said one silver lining is that industrywide sales for the 2013 quarter were higher than during the recession years of 2010, when 30,061 boats were sold, and 2011, when sales totaled 28,692.

MarineMax CEO Bill McGill and Brunswick CEO Dusty McCoy pointed to poor weather in their most recent quarterly earnings calls, saying it was responsible for making sales declines look worse than they were because the conditions were being compared with last year’s unseasonable warmth.

“Although we’re always reluctant to cite weather as a factor, we believe warmer-than-normal temperatures that occurred in the first quarter of 2012, combined with colder-than-normal conditions in this year’s first quarter for the eastern two-thirds of the United States, contributed to the declines experienced thus far,” McCoy told analysts. “In other words, we believe that retail sales occurred earlier last year, and this year they remain potentially deferred to later months.”

Jesse Wells, at Info-Link, said last month that if the sales dip is weather-related and there is pent-up demand, the effect will be seen in the next few months.

Boat dealers and marina owners in New Jersey worry that the cold spring will further harm their bottom line. Don Ditzel, at Comstock Yacht Sales and Marina in Brick, N.J., and vice president of the Marine Trades Association of New Jersey, said in late May: “Typically our spring is determined by the weather. This year, we haven’t had the best weather.”

The 47-state report showed that sales rose in only two categories in the main segments — 11- to 40-foot fiberglass outboards and 31- to 40-foot cruisers. Outboard sales rose 2.1 percent, or 161 boats, to 7,856, and sales of cruisers increased by 5.2 percent, or 13 boats, to 263.

Sales of aluminum fishing boats dropped by 9.2 percent, or 785 boats, to 7,763, and sales of aluminum pontoons were nearly flat, falling by 0.9 percent, or 40 boats, to 4,259. Both categories posted strong sales last year as the industry began to recover from the Great Recession.

Sales of 14- to 30-foot inboard and sterndrive boats fell 14.7 percent, or 368 boats, to 2,134.

Sales of jetboats dropped 21.9 percent, or 145 boats, to 517, personal watercraft sales fell 4 percent, or 149 units, to 3,591, and sales of ski boats were flat at 776.

Sailboat sales improved by 3.2 percent, or 14 boats, to 445.

On a 12-month rolling basis, sales through March remained higher. Main-segments sales were 120,824, up 6.7 percent, and industrywide sales were up 4.8 percent at 193,052.

Click here for the boat sales data.

— Jack Atzinger and Reagan Haynes

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