Signs of improvement in brokerage sales

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In contrast to our April report, boat sales made through yacht brokerages took a strong step forward in May. Unit sales ran only 7 percent behind May 2008 and 17 percent off a five-year running average. As reported to SoldBoats.com by member brokers of YachtWorld.com, 3,023 boats were sold in May, while 3,263 boats were sold a year ago.

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Powerboat sales led this improvement, with 2,478 boats sold. For May, powerboat sales were only 1 percent lower than a year ago, while this year to date, power sales are off about 14 percent. By comparison, sales of sailboats barely improved in May - off close to 30 percent compared to 2008.

For each of the first four months of 2009, unit sales of all boats were uniformly off 25 to 30 percent against the five-year average, so we certainly see May's results as a positive indicator for the market. On the other hand, valuations of boats sold are still way off - 36 percent for May and closer to 40 percent year-to-date.

Our regional snapshot this month looks at sales on the U.S. side of the Great Lakes. This is a relatively small market, with 1,109 boats reported sold through the first five months of the year, compared to almost 10,000 sold nationally. The dollar valuation of boats is typically about 6 percent of dollar sales nationally and, in that regard, this year is tracking about the same as last.

Relatively speaking, this region has fared better than some others in 2009. Unit sales are off this year by only 10 percent compared to a national figure of 18 percent. Valuations of boats sold have been nothing to write home about, however, down 32 percent from 2008, and they are more in line with the national average, which is down 38 percent.

Great Lakes brokerages have done relatively well with powerboat sales this year, selling 898 boats against 942 in 2008. Looking at sales of all types of boats by length, it's clear that small boats have been a key to the region's overall strength in unit sales; year to date, brokerages have sold more boats under 26 feet than a year ago. Sales are off in the middle-size ranges, but in contrast to national figures, almost as many boats of more than 46 feet have been sold this year on the Great Lakes as were a year ago.

This article originally appeared in the July 2009 issue.

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