Boat sales show small gains in January

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Winter’s icy fingers reached into the Deep South in January, but they appeared to be a minor factor as sales in the recreational boat industry rose slightly during what is traditionally a slow month.

Sales in the main powerboat segments rose just 1.2 percent, or 37 boats, to 3,243, compared with January of 2013, and industrywide sales were only 1.5 percent higher, or 71 boats, at 4,775, in 33 early reporting states that represent about 70 percent of the national market, Statistical Surveys reported.

Results in two popular categories of aluminum boats were mixed. Sales of pontoon boats rose 9 percent, or 36, to 437, but fishing-boat sales fell 6.7 percent, or 70, to 976.

“I’m sure the weather was a factor, but I would say it was a small factor,” said Ryan Kloppe, Statistical Surveys’ national marine sales manager.

“January is typically a very slow month” and any gain is a welcome sign, he added. “The top three states did more this January than last January, so that’s promising, and there are still some good gains within the data.”

Sales of 11- to 40-foot fiberglass outboard boats rose 3.9 percent, or 56, to 1,477. Sales of 14- to 30-foot inboard and sterndrive boats — a category that has struggled — climbed by six boats, to 224.

Sales of ski boats rose by 25, to 127, and personal watercraft sales climbed by 68, to 563.

Among other categories, sales of jetboats rose by five, to 65. Sailboat sales fell by 23, to 97.

Florida was the January sales leader among the early reporting states at 1,355 boats, followed by Texas (740), California (312), Louisiana (222) and Georgia (216). A year earlier, 1,268 boats were sold in Florida, 688 in Texas and 221 in California.

Rounding out the top 10 in January this year were Arizona (212), North Carolina (189), South Carolina (151), and Delaware and Tennessee, both with 136.

Sales in bigger-boat categories were mixed during the month. In the 31- to 40-foot cruiser category, sales fell by 11, to 63, but sales of 41- to 62-foot yachts rose by 19, to 52, and sales of custom and semicustom yachts from 63 to 99 feet rose by one, to 14.

Kloppe was in South Florida in February for the Miami International Boat Show and the Yacht & Brokerage Show in Miami Beach, and he sensed strong optimism among the builders that exhibited there.

“The industry is looking for a growth year,” he said, and builders are expecting a sales increase of 5 to 10 percent. Manufacturers that are producing new lines were upbeat about those models, he said, and exhibitors told him they had a lot of strong leads and follow-ups from the show.

This article originally appeared in the April 2014 issue.

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