The spring began with much promise in the recreational boat industry — 20 percent sales gains in March — but apart from a few reliable growth engines, overall sales in May weren’t much stronger than they had been during a weak April.
Sales of fiberglass outboard boats, and aluminum fishing and pontoon boats, rose in a range of 4.6 to 7.2 percent, but sales of summer fun boats such as ski and wake boats, jetboats and personal watercraft treaded water or fell below the pace of the same month last year, Statistical Surveys reported.
Sales in May rose 3.3 percent to 14,825 boats in the main powerboat segments and they were nearly flat — up just 0.5 percent — industrywide from the same month last year at 23,089 in 26 states that represent about 63 percent of the U.S. boat market.
Aluminum pontoon boats were the top seller among the main segments. Sales rose 4.6 percent to 4,997 boats. Sales of aluminum fishing boats climbed 5.8 percent to 3,262 and sales of outboard fiberglass boats ranging from 11 to 50 feet rose 7.2 percent to 4,372.
Sales of personal watercraft topped all industry categories at 5,636, but they were 4.8 percent lower than in the same month a year earlier. Sales of jetboats fell 12.2 percent, or 57 to 411 and sales of ski and wake boats fell by six boats, or 0.7 percent, to 870.
For perspective, sales for the year through May are still up 6.3 percent in the main powerboat segments and 5 percent industrywide in the early-reporting states.
“2016 was projected to have approximately 6 percent growth, so we’re still on pace for a great year,” Statistical Surveys sales director Ryan Kloppe said, noting the strength in pontoon and fiberglass outboard sales for the month.
Florida led the nation with 3,367 May sales, up slightly from 3,346 last year. Michigan ranked second with 2,912 sales, up from 2,823 a year earlier. Texas at 2,460 (up from 2,428 last year), New York, at 1,787 (down from 2,059 last year) and North Carolina, at 1,425 (up from 1,384 last year) completed the top five.
The rest of the top 10 states were Alabama at 1,354 (down from 1,457); Ohio at 999 (up from 986); Tennessee at 929 (down from 1,000); California at 836 (up from 686); and South Carolina at 828 (up from 631).
The Coast Guard was up to date in its reports on documented vessels, providing complete figures in the bigger-boat categories. Sales of 31- to 40-foot cruisers fell by 18 to 132. Sales of 41- to 65-foot yachts rose by three to 96 and sales of 66-foot and larger semicustom and custom yachts fell by nine to 10.
Sailboat sales rose by 14, or 6.6 percent, to 226.
This article originally appeared in the August 2016 issue.