Brokerage sales cool off in September

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U.S. brokerage sales slipped 5 percent in September, compared with the same month a year earlier, both in terms of the number of boats sold and the total value of the sales.

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According to member brokerages of YachtWorld.com, reporting in their proprietary database, SoldBoats.com, 2,140 boats were sold in September and the total sales value was $197 million.

There are two stories to tell about the U.S. brokerage market for the first three quarters of the year. The first is that the number of boats sold has remained level or slightly below the number sold a year earlier, and September, when sales were 5 percent lower, was only a little below the average decline of 2 percent for the year to date.

The sales values tell a different story. For the first four months of the year, values were down $120 million, or 11 percent. For the next four months they were much higher. Values climbed in May and June by $344 million, and then by another $70 million in July and August. So in terms of sales valuation, September marked the end of a strong run, and for the first three quarters total value stood 12 percent higher than in 2010. Total sales were $2.66 billion, an increase of almost $290 million.

The variation in valuation has come almost entirely from gains and losses in sales values among boats over 55 feet. In each month through the late spring and summer, the increased value of sales for the market as a whole was almost identical to the increase in valuation for the boats sold in the big-boat category. All other categories were up or down slightly, but usually within a few percentage points of the previous year.

Yet a closer look at the numbers shows that the winds of change were blowing in September. In fact, on a relative basis, big-boat sales were even more important to the brokerage market in September than in earlier months. The total value of sales for boats over 55 feet was up again in September by $14 million.

All smaller categories of boats showed weaker numbers, losing between 10 and 25 percent, compared with September 2010. Hardest hit were boats 46 to 55 feet, a category that was down 26 percent on sales of $27 million, although unit sales were down only 14 percent, with 110 boats sold.

In summary, for the first three quarters of 2011, unit sales were up incrementally for bigger boats and down incrementally for smaller boats. In terms of sales valuation, boats under 45 feet were down 2 to 6 percent. Despite a down month in September, boats 46 to 55 feet are up 3 percent for the year on sales of $353 million. And boats over 55 feet have sold for a total value of $1.05 billion, up 43 percent from $732 million a year earlier.

John Burnham is the editorial director of Dominion Marine Media.

This article originally appeared in the November 2011 issue.

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