Boat sales show double-digit gains in October

Posted on Written by Jack Atzinger

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Where the weather was warm, boat sales remained bright, and even though it was October enough Americans were still buying that the industry reached double-digit percentage gains for the fourth month in a row.

Sales in the main powerboat segments rose 16.9 percent, or 593 boats, to 4,105, and industrywide sales climbed 14.4 percent, or 755 boats, to 5,988, from October 2012 in 33 states that represent 63 percent of the national market, according to data compiled by Statistical Surveys.

Two of the industry’s sales-leading categories — aluminum pontoons and 11- to 40-foot fiberglass outboards — posted gains of more than 20 percent. The outboard segment surged 24.1 percent, or 364 boats, to an industrywide high of 1,877 and, on a percentage basis, pontoon sales climbed an even higher 26.7 percent, or 145 boats, to 688.

Sales of aluminum fishing boats, which have climbed in tandem with pontoons during the industry’s nearly two-year recovery from the Great Recession, rose 6.9 percent, or 71 boats, to 1,102.

Sales of inboard and sterndrive boats of 14 to 30 feet fell by 3.7 percent, or 12, to 314. The category was the only one among the main segments’ higher-volume groups to report a drop in sales.

“These are really excellent results we’re seeing here,” Statistical Surveys national marine sales manager Ryan Kloppe said. “You’re seeing the demand coming through.”

The Coast Guard was up to date in its reports of documented vessels, giving a complete picture of sales in bigger-boat categories.

Kloppe said the consistent growth the industry is starting to get is creating the kind of stability that gives builders and dealers more confidence about what to make and stock.

Florida was the October leader at 1,577 boats, followed by Texas (819), South Carolina (374), Tennessee (358) and California (312). Rounding out the top 10 were North Carolina (287), Michigan (265), Georgia (257), Arizona (191) and New York (153).

Florida (1,214), Texas (781) and South Carolina (330) also led the sales list in October 2012, and each of those states said they had more sales in October 2013.

With 17 states left to report, the industry had a chance to surpass the 7,140 boats that were sold nationwide in October 2012, a month that ended with Hurricane Sandy slamming into the East Coast, devastating marinas and boatyards. BoatUS estimated that Sandy damaged or destroyed 65,000 boats at a cost of roughly $650 million.

For 2013 through October in the early-reporting states, sales were up 5.2 percent, or 5,901 boats, to 118,662, and industrywide they were up 1.5 percent, or 2,808 boats, to 185,818.

October sales of ski boats rose by 41 to 187 and sales of personal watercraft climbed by 23 units to 751. Jetboats, a category that is expected to rebound as more builders enter it, saw sales fall by 17 to 74.

Jetboat sales were down 32.4 percent through October in the early-reporting states, a picture that Kloppe said should brighten in 2014 as boats from Four Winns, Glastron and Chaparral enter the market.

This article originally appeared in the January 2014 issue.

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