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Back to Reality?

Boat sales declined slightly through most categories in September
Screen Shot 2022-11-10 at 3.11.58 PM

New-boat registrations dropped somewhat in September compared with the previous year, a sign that the unprecedented demand of recent years continues to ebb. When conditions were “normal” at the end of 2018, going into prepandemic 2019, a drop-off in sales after Labor Day would have been typical.

In the main powerboat segments, registrations numbered 7,640 in September, compared with 8,970 for the previous year, a 14.8% drop. Total registrations for the month were 139,879, compared with 162,218 in the year prior, a 13.8% decrease, according to Statistical Surveys. The Michigan-based firm recently released September registration data from 34 states that represent about 69% of the domestic boating market.

Some of the changes could be related to continuing supply-chain shortages and holdups as dealers wait for previously ordered boats. “While not a positive headline for the group, we continue to believe that SSI data is more backward-looking than typical, given the high percentage of retail-sold boats currently being produced and shipped,” said senior analyst Eric Wold of B. Riley Securities. “We do not expect SSI data to be an indicator of real-time demand until mid- to late 2023, when dealer inventories begin to return to more normalized levels and backlogs are increasingly monetized.”

Looking at individual segments, pontoon boats in September totaled 2,053, a 12.7% drop from 2,352 in 2021. Registrations for all outboard fiberglass boats were 2,820 in for the month, while that number was 3,211 a year earlier. Personal watercraft remained relatively strong, leading the way for individual sectors with 3,060 units registered in September, a 15% drop compared with 3,602 a year earlier. Year-to-date numbers for PWC were 55,072, a 20.6% drop from 69,400 in 2021.

Registrations for inboard and sterndrive boats from 14 to 30 feet numbered 229 for September 2022, a 29.8% drop from 326 in 2021. For cruisers from 31 to 40 feet, 34 were registered, compared with 42 in the year before. Forty-three yachts from 41 to 65 feet were registered in September 2022, while that number was 50 in 2021. Ten semicustom and custom yachts larger than 66 feet were registered, a 25% increase over the eight that were put into service in 2021. Finally, in the ski/wake category, 559 boats were registered in September, a 10.6% decrease from 625 a year prior.

Electric boats were up 60%, but that represented a difference of 16 boats for 2022, compared with 10 in 2021. Five houseboats were registered this year versus three last year. Sailboats remained basically flat at 104 for 2022 versus 103 in 2021.

For year-to-date figures, jetboats were up 0.4%, with 4,104 registrations for 2022 and 4,089 for 2021. Sailboats were also up, 1,279 this year compared with 1,172 for 2021.

“Given the lack of inventory and order books that need to be addressed, we are not too concerned with the registration reversion in the most recent month,” Wold said. 

This article was originally published in the December 2022 issue.



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