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Boat sales decline for first time since June

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The seemingly unsinkable aluminum pontoon market contributed what it could in November, but it couldn’t keep the recreational boat industry from showing a modest decline in sales, its first since the spring quarter.

Sales in the main powerboat segments fell 1.5 percent, or 43 boats, to 2,794, and industrywide sales dropped 2.6 percent, or 106 boats, to 3,934, in 28 early-reporting states that represent about 64 percent of the national market, Statistical Surveys reported today.

The industrywide drop was the first since June. Sales in the main segments, a group that consists of two aluminum and five fiberglass categories, fell for the first time since April.

Statistical Surveys national marine sales manager Ryan Kloppe said chilly weather contributed to the November decline.

“The weather turned pretty cold in November for most of the country,” he said.

November is traditionally a slow month for boat sales. The industry sold 5,069 boats industrywide in all 50 states in November 2012.

Florida was the November sales leader among the early-reporting states at 1,210 boats, followed by Texas (504), Louisiana (289), North Carolina (216) and Georgia (185).

Florida (1,109), Texas (569) and Louisiana (388) also led the sales list last year.

Rounding out the top 10 in November this year were California (183), Arizona (139), Michigan (136), South Carolina (126) and Tennessee (105).

For 2013 through November in the early-reporting states, sales were up 5.9 percent in the main powerboat segments, or 6,945 boats, to 123,739, and they were up 2 percent, or 3,834 boats, to 193,664 industrywide.

Kloppe predicts that sales for all 50 states for the full year will be up about 6 percent in the main segments and 3 percent industrywide.

“We can consider that moderate growth, with momentum heading into 2014, where we can continue that growth,” he said.

Pontoon sales rose by 30 in November, or 9.3 percent, to 353, but aluminum fishing boat sales slipped by 4.1 percent, or 38 boats, to 881, and sales of 11- to 40-foot fiberglass outboards dropped 1.3 percent, or 17 boats, to 1,277.

All three segments have been strong gainers since the industry began to recover last year from the Great Recession.

Kloppe said pontoon builders are putting larger engines on the boats and adding other improvements that are making them appeal to more buyers.

“People can use them just like other boats,” he said. “The pontoon is becoming more versatile.”

Sales of 14- to 30-foot inboard and sterndrive boats — a category that has struggled — fell by 36 boats, or 17.8 percent, to 166, but two of the bigger-boat categories posted sales gains. Sales of 31- to 40-foot cruisers rose by 11, to 60, and sales of 41- to 62-foot yachts climbed by eight, to 46. The Coast Guard was up to date in its reports of documented vessels, providing a complete picture of sales in the cruiser and yacht categories.

This article originally appeared in the February 2014 issue.

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