Buoyed by a strong November, the recreational boating industry got the holiday present it wanted — a second consecutive month of double-digit sales gains in December, traditionally one of the slowest months of the year.
Sales rose 14.6 percent to 3,381 in the main segments and 11.1 percent industrywide to 4,618 from December 2014 in 25 states that represent about 60 percent of the U.S. market, Statistical Surveys reported.
“Granted it’s only 4,000 boats, but we’re finishing 2015 very strong,” Statistical Surveys sales director Ryan Kloppe said.
Sales are up 7.6 percent industrywide for the full year at 216,076 in the early-reporting states. Industry forecasts were for an increase of 6 to 8 percent nationwide and Kloppe is confident that final sales figures for all 50 states will show that the industry achieved 8 percent growth last year.
“To hit the high end of the forecast shows that strong sales continued through all of 2015 and it really sets us up well for 2016,” Kloppe said. “These positive numbers will help us with the winter boat show season, which is already underway.”
As was the case in November, the small-to-midsize outboard fiberglass boat segment topped the industry, reporting 1,666 sales in December for a 13.2 percent gain.
The main segments’ two categories of aluminum boats also saw sales increases, although the fishing-boat category — up 18 percent to 910 — significantly outperformed pontoon boats, where sales rose just 4.3 percent to 412.
The fiberglass sterndrive segment fell slightly after an encouraging November with sales of 129 boats, three fewer than in December 2014, but the three bigger-boat categories reported gains as the Coast Guard caught up in its reports of sales of documented vessels.
Sales of 31- to 40-foot cruisers rose by eight to 55. Sales of 41- to 62-foot yachts climbed by 15 to 57 and sales of 63- to 99-foot semicustom and custom yachts increased by 11 to 23.
Personal watercraft posted the third-highest sales in the industry in December at 546, which represented a gain of 23, or 4.4 percent, from the year-earlier month. Sales of ski and wakeboard boats climbed by 51 to 129 and sales of jetboats rose by 11 to 54.
Sales of PWC exceed 50,000 for the full year in the early-reporting states and sales of fiberglass outboard boats and aluminum pontoons are above the 40,000 mark.
Kloppe said he expects aluminum fishing boat sales to also top 40,000 once figures for all 50 states are available. Sales in that category total 37,753 in the states that have reported.
Florida led the early-reporting states with sales of 1,744 boats. As was the case last month, Texas ranked second, but its 616 sales were well behind the leader.
Those two states, which regularly top the nation, were followed by California (357), North Carolina (261) and South Carolina (227). Completing the top 10 were Arkansas (201), Alabama (195), Tennessee (155), Michigan (141) and Washington (114).
All of the top 10 states except Washington saw sales rise from December 2014.
Sailboat sales rose by 12 to 67, but they were 7.6 percent lower for the year in the early-reporting states at 2,180.
This article originally appeared in the March 2016 issue.