Analyst: Favorable Weather Releases Pent-Up Demand

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New-boat registrations grew in several key categories during October, according to preliminary data released by Statistical Surveys. The numbers again excluded Florida since the state has been behind in gathering its information.

Pontoon registrations were up more than 25 percent over October 2018, ski and wake grew 4.5 percent, and fiberglass outboard boats grew 4.9 percent.

“The October headline number is well ahead of our flattish expectation,” says Wells Fargo analyst Tim Conder in a report about the data. “While promotions appear to be supporting retail sell-through, the primary driver seems to be more favorable weather releasing some pent-up demand.”

October marked the fourth sequential month of year-over-year gains following a disappointing start to the selling season, down 7 percent through June. That gives increasing comfort that weather and timing did influence early season trends, writes SunTrust analyst Michael Swartz.

The fiberglass outboard registration number could rise when Florida numbers are included in the data, according to Statistical Surveys sales director Ryan Kloppe. The state has struggled to provide timely and complete information, so it has not been included in early reporting for months.

Florida could be key to swinging data further given its status as the leading state for boat sales, writes B. Riley analyst Eric Wold in a report, noting that excluding the sterndrive/inboard category from the October data means the remainder of the industry experienced an 8.2 percent increase in registrations, as opposed to the consolidated headline increase of 7.6 percent.

“There’s some really decent numbers in there,” Kloppe says regarding the data from 27 states, representing nearly 52 percent of the overall market. “The number of pontoons sold, and aluminum fishing boats had a great month after being down. The major segments had a great month.”

Aluminum fishing boats were up 3.1 percent over last October but were still down 9.1 percent year-to-date. Pontoons were down 2.6 percent year-to-date, and fiberglass outboard boats were down 1.4 percent year-to-date.

Yacht sales were up 61.1 percent over October 2018, though still off 5.7 percent for the year versus last year.

The only category in the main segments with positive year-to-date growth was ski and wake, up 3.7 percent. The only other positive year-to-date category is personal watercraft, up 3.8 percent.

Many top 10 states, including Texas, North Carolina, Michigan and Georgia, had strong increases for the month.

Overall, the industry was down 2.9 percent year-to-date and up 2.8 percent versus October 2018. 

This article originally appeared in the January 2020 issue.

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