Brokerage sales find traction tough to gain during cold, wet winter

Posted on Written by John Burnham, YachtWorld.com

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Strong U.S. brokerage sales through most of 2013 smacked into extreme cold in the first two months of this year, and the effects of the snow and ice that arrived with the polar vortex contributed to slower sales in January and February.

The number of boats sold for the period declined 6 percent, from 3,457 in 2013 to 3,243 in 2014, according to member brokerages of YachtWorld, reporting in their proprietary database, SoldBoats.com.

The total value of boats sold in the country increased by 2 percent in the same period, from $445.2 million to $456.1 million, and most of that increase can be attributed to a reasonably healthy superyacht market. Although three fewer boats larger than 80 feet, a total of 27, were sold during the period, the aggregate price of the boats rose from $128.6 million to $136.2 million.

Leaving superyacht sales aside, the market as a whole was down, but there was strength in some segments. The middle of the market (boats 26 to 45 feet) had slightly lower unit sales, but the average prices increased and the total price paid for boats of that size grew, as well. Combined with a 20 percent jump in sales for boats 56 to 79 feet, the result was a small increase in the value of boats sold under 80 feet, to $320 million from $317 million.

Pricing pressure was evident, however, among boats 46 to 55 feet and 56 to 79 feet; in the latter case, average prices fell even as a higher number of boats were sold. The average 46- to 55-footer sold for $262,000, down from $289,000 a year earlier, and the average price paid for a 56- to 79-footer declined from $791,000 to $711,000.

The number of boats sold that were smaller than 26 feet also decreased significantly in January and February, to 977, which was 16 percent less than 1,162 a year earlier. This decline amounted to almost half of the market’s volume shortfall.

Does the cold winter truly deserve some blame for the depressed sales? It’s hard to say for sure, but you can be the judge after seeing these state figures:

Compared with the previous year, sales were higher for January and February in Texas (12 percent), California (12 percent), Oregon (9 percent) and Florida (3 percent).

By contrast, sales were lower across most states hard-hit by weather, ranging from Georgia (58 percent) to North Carolina (49 percent) and from Rhode Island (31 percent) to Minnesota (69 percent).

There were exceptions, such as New York, which was up 3 percent, and Virginia (up 23 percent) and Maine (up 42 percent), but the declines were so striking in the Southern states that we’d like to hear whether anyone has a better explanation than the weather.

John Burnham is the editorial director of Dominion Marine Media.

This article originally appeared in the April 2014 issue.

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