Big-boat sales are a bright spot in April

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Category gains 7 percent, but brokerage deals fall 9 percent as middle of market slumps

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Bigger boats started to move in the U.S. brokerage market in April as sales of boats over 46 feet rose 7 percent, to 235, compared with April 2010. However, sales for the market as a whole went in the other direction: 2,822 boats were sold, a drop of 9 percent measured against the 3,098 that were sold 12 months earlier, according to sales reports of member brokerages of YachtWorld.com in their proprietary database, SoldBoats.com.

Through April, overall sales fell 4 percent, from 9,060 last year to 8,667 this year. The total value of sales is off 12 percent, or $121 million, to $902 million so far this year. Thanks to the strength of big-boat sales in April, however, sales valuation for the month was lower by only 1 percent.

Sales of boats over 56 feet were fairly slow all winter; 253 boats were sold in that size range through the first four months of the year, a decrease of 10 percent, despite April’s gains. The total value of those sales was $283 million, a drop of $106 million, compared with 2010 sales. That gap accounts for most of the year-over-year decline in sales value for the market as a whole.

What’s changed in a month’s time is that as big-boat sales have shown signs of life, the middle of the market has cooled. About 10 percent fewer boats under 45 feet changed hands in April, compared with the same month last year. The total value of sales held up reasonably well in the 36- to 45-foot category, dropping only 6 percent, to $78 million. Among 26- to 35-footers, the drop in value was in step with the 10.6 percent dip in boats sold.

However, the 931 boats under 26 feet that brokers sold brought in $18 million in sales, which is 19 percent lower than a year earlier. Through April, next to the big boats, this has been the hardest-hit category, down 7 percent in units (2,787 boats) and 12 percent in value ($55 million).

The most consistent sales category in April, as in most of this year, was the 46- to 55-foot range, where 160 boats sold for $47 million, a pickup of 13 percent from April 2010. Through April, it’s the only category to show growth from 2010, with 488 boats of that size sold, an increase of 6 percent.

John Burnham is the editorial director of Dominion Marine Media.

This article originally appeared in the June 2011 issue.

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