Continuing to show surprising late-year strength, recreational boat sales achieved double-digit gains in December for the second month in a row.
An increase of 17.7 percent, to 2,862 boats, from the same month a year earlier in the main powerboat segments, coupled with a 16.8 percent gain industrywide, to 4,179, brought sales for the full year to 207,287 in 26 states that represent 59 percent of the U.S. market, Statistical Surveys reported.
“It’s really encouraging to see, and it just shows that the momentum is going to continue into 2015,” Statistical Surveys national marine sales manager Ryan Kloppe says.
Full-year sales in the early-reporting states now slightly exceed the 2013 50-state total of 207,277, with figures from 24 states remaining. Sales for the year are up 5.6 percent in the main segments and 8.7 percent industrywide in the early-reporting states.
The gain in the main segments in December was led by three industry mainstays — aluminum fishing and pontoon boats and fiberglass outboards. Pontoon boat sales rose by 15.4 percent, to 390, and fishing boat sales climbed by 12.3 percent, to 769, but the fiberglass outboard category was the star of the group. Sales of outboard boats from 11 to 40 feet rose by 22.9 percent, to 1,426.
“Those manufacturers have hit a hot button with consumers,” Kloppe says, adding amenities that make the boats more versatile and add to their appeal.
Even the 14- to 30-foot sterndrive segment, which has consistently underperformed, showed a gain of 4.9 percent in December, to 150 boats. Within that segment, sales of boats 23 feet and larger were up 8.4 percent for the month.
Kloppe says buyers of sterndrives and fiberglass outboards are looking for well-equipped boats. “The people who are purchasing these types of boats want them fully loaded,” he says.
Sales were higher in eight of the top-10 selling states in December. Florida led the early-reporting states with 1,675 sales, followed by Texas (592), California (258), North Carolina (215) and South Carolina (172).
Rounding out the top 10 were Arkansas (171), Delaware (133), Michigan (132), Washington (131) and Tennessee (112).
California and Tennessee were the only states in the top 10 where sales were lower in December than they were a year earlier.
The Coast Guard was up to date in its reports of documented vessels, providing a complete picture of sales in the bigger-boat categories. Sales of 31- to 40-foot cruisers fell by one in December, to 47, sales of 41- to 62-foot yachts rose by 13, to 59, and sales of 63- to 99-foot semicustom and custom yachts rose by nine, to 21.
Sales of personal watercraft rose by 92 to 539. Ski boat sales fell by 11 to 85 and sales of jet boats rose by 11 to 44.
Sales of sailboats rose by three to 83.
This article originally appeared in the March 2015 issue.