4Q starts with some signs of improvement

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Seven out of nine regions declined at a slower rate in October, according to early release numbers. Connecticut (New England), Louisiana (West South Central), Oklahoma (West South Central), and Oregon (Pacific Region) all showed growth during the month.

This snapshot represents the entire fiberglass and aluminum markets, including personal watercraft. These statistics include 34 early reporting states that represent approximately 70 percent of the national market. The percentage of change for October retail sales for California and the Pacific region is overstated because of data entry delays in the state of California during 2008.

Reading the bar chart from left to right helps you identify the overall industry trend as it applies to your region. Twelve months rolling backward from October gives the most conservative perspective. Year-to-date numbers present a cumulative view of the trends, while quarterly and monthly numbers provide insight into standard calendar reporting time frames.

The following general trends can be summarized. The New England and West South Central regions showed the smallest declines for the month, decreasing by 3.5 percent and 7.3 percent, respectively. The Mountain region continued to be hit the hardest of all regions in October with a 56.7 percent decline.

Year-to-date, the Mountain region was leading the market contraction with a 37.9 percent decline, while the West North Central and West South Central regions fell by 20.6 percent. Finally, reviewing the 12-month rolling time period, the West North Central region posted the smallest contraction with a 20.4 percent drop. Regional results may fluctuate over time because some regions have fewer early reporting states than others.

October starts the lowest volume quarter of the year, so it's a positive sign to see that the majority of regions are showing improvement.

The Mountain region, influenced by lower retail sales in Arizona and Idaho, was the slowest region in October. If the California data settles, we could see year-end declines finish down around 23 to 25 percent for the entire marine market.

Aarn D. Rosen is national marine sales manager for Statistical Surveys, the Grand Rapids, Mich.-based firm that tracks retail boat sales.

This article originally appeared in the January 2010 issue.