Fishermen, pontoon-boat buyers and people who are attracted to small to midsize outboard boats have been leading the recreational boating industry’s rebound from the Great Recession. They may be getting some company.
Figures for January don’t contradict what has been a two-year trend, but they suggest that some of the bigger-boat categories may be poised to play a larger role in the moderate but steady sales gains the industry has been posting. January is a slow month — typically the third-slowest of the year, after December and November — so the numbers are small, but sales of cruisers and larger yachts all showed improvement as Statistical Surveys provided results from 30 early-reporting states.
Sales in January rose 9.9 percent to 3,532 boats in the main powerboat segments compared with the same month last year and they rose 9.2 percent industrywide to 4,876 in states that represent about 65 percent of the national market.
“The momentum of sales from last year has definitely carried over and consumer confidence continues to grow,” Statistical Surveys national marine sales manager Ryan Kloppe says.
Sales for the month were highest in the 11- to 40-foot outboard fiberglass category, where the gain was 11.4 percent to 1,549 boats. Pontoon sales climbed 21 percent to 531 boats and sales of aluminum fishing boats rose 6.2 percent to 972.
“Customers continue to set the purchasing trends, telling the industry that pontoons and fiberglass outboards will remain popular segments this year,” Kloppe said. “I was in Miami [for the boat shows] and there was positive buzz around the show regarding new-boat models, new engines and a lot of people buying boats.”
In the bigger-boat categories, the numbers were small but the gains were across the board. Sales of 31- to 40-foot cruisers rose by 23 boats to 84, sales of 41- to 62-foot yachts climbed by 22 to 73 and sales of 63- to 99-foot custom and semicustom yachts increased by five to 18.
The only category in the main segments that showed a decline was 14- to 30-foot inboards and sterndrives, where sales fell 19.5 percent to 173. The segment has been steadily losing ground.
A majority of the top 10 states for sales in January were Southern, as is often the case during the heart of the winter in much of the nation. Florida was the leader among the early-reporting states with 1,784 sales, followed by Texas (718), North Carolina (273), California (246) and South Carolina (216).
Rounding out the top 10 were Arkansas (202), Tennessee (181), Michigan (157), Washington (113) and Minnesota (103).
Ski-boat sales showed a modest gain of three to 132; jetboat sales fell by eight to 53.
Sales of personal watercraft rose by 73, or 13.8 percent, to 603.
Sailboat sales rose by nine to 106.
This article originally appeared in the April 2015 issue.