Boat sales bounce back in June

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Boosted by solid improvement in three key categories, the recreational boat industry got back on plane in June with single-digit sales growth in the main segments and a double-digit increase industrywide.

After a mixed report disappointed builders and dealers in May, sales of aluminum fishing boats and pontoons and fiberglass outboards resumed their role as industry drivers. They helped propel sales 5.6 percent higher in the main segments to 13,089 boats and 13.3 percent industrywide to 23,586, compared with the previous June in 26 states that represent about 65 percent of the U.S. market, Statistical Surveys reported.

The pontoon segment sold the most boats, 4,794, and the fiberglass outboard category had the highest percentage gain (10.6 percent) as the main segments reversed a 2.6 percent sales decline in early-reporting states in May.

Pontoon sales rose by 345, or 7.8 percent, fishing boat sales rose by 198, or 6.9 percent, to 3,071, and fiberglass outboard sales climbed by 352 to 3,669.

Statistical Surveys national marine sales manager Ryan Kloppe attributed the turnaround to a combination of pent-up demand and improved weather that encouraged consumers to buy.

“It’s all come to fruition in June,” he said.

Last year, boat sales remained strong throughout the summer after a spring marked by cold and wet weather. Kloppe is optimistic that the industry can repeat that performance.

“I think we can sustain this positive momentum,” he said, adding that although the West is dealing with a drought, its effects shouldn’t negatively affect the overall market.

More new boats found owners in seven of the top-selling states in June than was the case a year earlier. Florida was the sales leader with 3,132, a gain of 782, Texas ranked second with 2,907 sales, a gain of 271, and Michigan was third with 2,806, an increase of 603.

Kloppe said dealers in Michigan had told him that customers were pressing them in late May for boats that were on order because the weather was warming up.

“The delivery of all those boats and the registrations occurred in June,” he said.

Sales were lower in Minnesota (1,710, down 187) and New York (1,522, down 54). Rounding out the top 10 were North Carolina (1,276, up 149); California (1,149, up 137; South Carolina (1,002, up 277); Ohio (972, up 175); and Tennessee (771, down 45).

The 14-to 30-foot sterndrive and inboard fiberglass category was the only one in the main segments that showed a sales decline in June. Sales fell by 209 boats, or 13.6 percent, to 1,332.

The Coast Guard was up to date in its reports of documented vessels, providing a complete picture of sales in the low-volume bigger-boat categories. Sales of 31- to 40-foot cruisers rose by 10 to 116, sales of 41- to 62-foot yachts rose by one to 80 and sales of 63- to 99-foot yachts also rose by one to 27.

Among smaller vessels, sales of personal watercraft climbed 32.7 percent, or 1,718 units, to 6,979, sales of jetboats rose by 20.9 percent, or 68, to 393, and ski-boat sales climbed by 69, or 9.9 percent, to 766.

Sailboat sales fell by 31, or 11 percent, to 250.

This article originally appeared in the September 2014 issue.

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