The recreational boat industry had its strongest month this year in May as sales rose in all but two categories and some segments posted double-digit gains.
Sales climbed 8.5 percent, or 1,159 boats, to 14,740 in the main powerboat segments and 8 percent, or 1,699, to 22,926 industrywide from the same month last year in 23 states that represent about 56 percent of the U.S. boat market, Statistical Surveys reported.
Percentagewise the gains were the best since January. Total sales for May were the highest for any month this year, and they came at the midpoint of the April-to-July selling season.
“It’s definitely our best month of the year, with strong growth in our major segments,” said Ryan Kloppe, Statistical Surveys’ sales director, citing gains in the aluminum fishing and pontoon categories and among fiberglass outboards.
“And PWC continues its double-digit growth,” he said.
Kloppe said that although boat sales got off to a slow start this year, Statistical Surveys was expecting strong May results because of conversations the company had with builders and dealers.
“I think it will be good for the industry to see these numbers,” he said. “This is definitely going to put us on pace for 4 to 6 percent growth this year.”
For the year through May, sales are up 3.3 percent, or 2,105, at 65,020 in the main segments and 3.5 percent, or 3,198, at 93,735 industrywide in the early-reporting states.
Among the main segments, sales of 11- to 50-foot fiberglass outboards soared 10.5 percent, or 459, to 4,831, and sales of aluminum fishing boats climbed 9.8 percent, or 270, to 3,028. Aluminum pontoon boat sales rose 7.5 percent, or 331, to 4,741.
Outside the main segments, sales of personal watercraft rose by double digits for the third month in a row. PWC sales climbed 12.8 percent, or 700, to 6,164, and they are up 10.6 percent, at 17,768, through May in the early-reporting states.
Sales of ski and wake boats, one of the main segments, climbed by 8.9 percent, or 73, to 892, and sales of jetboats rose 17.7 percent, or 66, to 439.
Nine of the top 10 states for sales reported higher numbers than they did in May last year.
Florida, typically the top sales state, led with 3,647 (up from 3,620), but Michigan passed Texas, which is usually the second-place state with 3,331 (up from 2,890); Texas was third at 2,693 (up from 2,455); New York was fourth at 2,071 (down slightly from 2,074); and North Carolina was fifth at 1,564 (up from 1,446).
Rounding out the top 10 were Alabama at 1,405 (up from 1,361); New Jersey at 1,048 (up from 806); California at 997 (up from 833); South Carolina at 887 (up from 751); and Washington at 761 (up from 732).
The Coast Guard was up to date in its reports on documented vessels, providing a complete report in the bigger-boat categories. Sales of 31- to 40-foot cruisers rose by 26 to 156; sales of 41- to 65-foot yachts rose by six to 95; and sales of 66-foot and larger custom and semicustom yachts rose by 11 to 20.
The only categories in which sales were lower in May this year were sailboats and 14- to 30-foot inboard and sterndrive boats.
Inboard and sterndrive sales fell 1.7 percent, or 17 boats, to 977, and sales in the category are down by 8.7 percent, at 3,710 boats, for the year in the early-reporting states.
Sailboat sales fell by 79 to 137 and they are lower by 334 boats, or 37.2 percent, for the year through May, at 565 in those states.
This article originally appeared in the August 2017 issue.