Despite Brexit cloud, U.K. boat sales make big gains in 2018

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UK Builders

British Marine reported that industrywide boatbuilding revenues have increased by 21.3 percent for 2018 to $972 million (£777 million). The U.K. boating market is worth about $1.75 billion (£1.4 billion) annually to the nation’s economy. Output grew 2.9 percent to 9,477 units.

The trade association released the figures this week at the Southampton boat show.

“We’re pleased to see that the UK’s boatbuilding sector enjoyed positive growth last year, despite Brexit and economic uncertainty,” said Lesley Robinson, CEO at British Marine, in a statement. “We are seeing increased demand across nearly all vessels, from motor yachts to canal boats and dinghies.”

The rising sales come against a backdrop of declining business confidence, the association said. Domestically, U.K. marine businesses are experiencing flat sales. Only 7 percent of companies surveyed reported an increase in domestic revenues in the last six months.

Robinson said that the revenue gains were due to rising exports, with over 65 percent of U.K. production going overseas. He said that inboard cruisers and motoryachts have seen 11.4 percent gains in 2018. Rigid inflatable boats were up 5.5 percent to 1,060 units for the year. The motoryacht category is leading the way.

The statement noted that motoryachts from 39 to 79 feet LOA saw a 12.3 percent expansion in production. Sunseeker International and Princess Yachts reported record sales and forward orders, while other builders like Pearl Yachts and Fairline Yachts saw double digit sales growth.

The U.K. domestic market accounts for less than 1 percent of new boats in that category. Exports in the category totaled $858 million (£686 million) in 2018.

Production in the UK’s inland narrowboat market grew 1.2 percent to 204 boats, with total new boat registrations up just 0.5 percent. The Sailing Dinghies & Small Sailboats category also saw growth of 2.5 percent, with exports of $18.8 million (£15 million) in 2018.

“The figures released today show promising growth across the sector, at what is a challenging time for the market,” said Antony Sheriff, executive chairman of Princess Yachts, in the statement. “We’ve enjoyed record sales and forward orders, which is a testament to the fact that more and more people are seeking to buy UK-manufactured boats.”

“Whilst it’s encouraging to see the UK remain a global hotspot for boat production, we’re also reminded that the sector continues to face challenges such as lower consumer confidence in the UK,” added Robinson. “Over the past year we’ve seen local sales remain flat and with the prospect of further Brexit delays dampening domestic spending, the future health of the sector is uncertain.”

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