After a disappointing start to the year, recreational boat sales rebounded in February with strong single-digit gains that suggest the big Miami boat shows and smaller regional events attracted a significant number of buyers.
Sales rose 9.3 percent to 5,038 boats in the main powerboat segments and 8.5 percent industrywide to 6,886 from the same month last year in 26 states that represent about 62 percent of the U.S. market, Statistical Surveys reported.
The industry started 2016 sluggishly in January — typically a slow month — as sales fell 6.1 percent in the main segments and 6.5 percent industrywide, but the bounceback enabled builders and dealers to make up the lost ground. Through February, sales were about even with last year.
Statistical Surveys sales director Ryan Kloppe says continuing momentum from pent-up demand last year, the variety of new boats and accessories that consumers are seeing at boat shows and a mild winter in most parts of the country “are contributing to what you’re seeing today. I think you’re going to see these kinds of numbers continue into the spring season.”
Small-to-midsize fiberglass boats were the industry’s top February seller at 2,126, up 8 percent for the month, and on a percentage basis aluminum pontoon boats were among the biggest gainers in the high-volume categories — up 18 percent, or 129 boats, to 840 from the previous February.
Aluminum fishing boats were the second-best category for total sales, posting a gain of 70 boats, or 4.9 percent, to 1,491. Percentagewise, ski and wakeboard boats led all categories with a gain of 24.1 percent, or 39 boats, to 201.
Every category in the main segments, including the long-struggling sterndrive group, reported sales figures that were the same or higher than the previous year. Sterndrive sales rose 5.8 percent, or 15 boats, to 275.
Sales were higher in eight of the top 10 states and in 22 of the 26 early-reporting states, but curiously Florida, the sales leader, was not among them. Sales in the Sunshine State fell by 49 to 1,608. Texas was the No. 2 sales state with 1,338, 144 more than last year.
The other states in the top 10 were Alabama, 467 (up 21); North Carolina, 430 (up 73); California, 348 (up 115); Arkansas, 313 (up 54); Tennessee, 300 (up 36); South Carolina, 295 (up five); Washington, 248 (down 47); and Michigan, 228 (up 41).
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 rose by nine to 51. Sales of 41- to 65-foot yachts rose by eight to 44 and sales of 66-foot and larger semicustom and custom yachts were flat at 10.
Sales of personal watercraft rose 14.4 percent, or 114, to 903, but jetboat sales fell 8.1 percent, or 10 units, to 114.
Sailboat sales fell by three to 98.
This article originally appeared in the May 2016 issue.