Boat sales down slightly in March

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Overall boat sales in March were slightly lower compared to last year, and year-over-year growth fell by just over 1 percent, according to Statistical Surveys Inc. data that was gathered for 30 states.

In year-to-date comparisons, four of the top 10 states in terms of new boat registrations were up. North Carolina (ranked No. 4) had a 4 percent increase (1,171 in 2018 versus 1,127 in 2017), while South Carolina (ranked 7th) was up by 34 percent (970 compared to 725). Ranked ninth, New York was up by 8 percent (597 versus 554). No. 10 California had a 13-percent boost (547 compared to 486).

“California the last two years has been on the rise,” said Ryan Kloppe, sales director at Statistical Surveys. The state overcame drought conditions and has been on a steady upswing since 2016.

Regarding the overall slow pace, Kloppe said, “You can attribute some of that to the weather. If you remember back in March, Florida had a cold snap too.” For much of the late winter and early spring, the Sunshine State and much of the Southeast had unseasonably cool temperatures that could have hindered sales.

Because of the lingering colder temperatures throughout the country, some boats purchased at shows are likely still sitting in storage or under shrink wrap. “There may have been boats sold, too, that haven’t been registered yet,” Kloppe said.

In year-to-date sales, segments that have traditionally shown strong sales experienced minimal increases, which contributed to the overall slow sales. Pontoons (1.3 percent), fiberglass outboard-powered boats (1.4 percent) and ski/wake sports boats (6.2 percent) remain the segments that have had the most consistent growth.

For March, yachts ranging from 41 to 65 feet had the biggest single-month increase at 13.4 percent, with 76 units compared to 67. Yachts over 66 feet, on the other hand, were down by 25 percent for the month of March and down by 15.2 percent year-to-date. Aluminum fish boats were up by 0.2 percent in March, but down by the same percentage in year-over-year numbers.

Personal watercraft had a slight increase of 1.4 percent compared to last March. In year-over-year numbers, electrically powered vessels were up 11.4 percent, with 49 new registrations in 2018 compared to 44 in 2017. For the first time in recent memory, sailboats were up, by 2.2 percent.

In terms of new registrations, Florida remained the top state at 3,480 so far in 2018, but that number was lower than the 3,516 during the same period in 2017. Texas was No. 2 at 2,136 new boats, also down compared to 2,316 last year. Michigan ranked third with 1,270 new registrations in 2018 compared to 1,305 in 2017.

Outside of the top 10, Delaware was up by 17 percent compared to 2017, and Massachusetts showed a 20.5 percent increase over last year. Hawaii was nearly double with 14 units sold in 2017 and 24 sold so far in 2018.

This article originally appeared in the June 2018 issue.

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