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Boat sales post double-digit gains in December

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Like the stars on a professional sports team, two stalwart categories of aluminum boats and the largest segment of fiberglass boats delivered solidly higher sales in December that enabled the recreational boat industry to finish 2013 with a month of double-digit gains.

Sales of pontoon boats rose by 28.5 percent, or 74, to 334, and sales of fishing boats climbed by 18.9 percent, or 132, to 829, in 27 early reporting states that Statistical Surveys said represent about 61 percent of the national market. For the year, pontoon sales were up by 12.2 percent, or 4,005, at 36,854, in those states and sales of fishing boats were 3.9 percent higher, or 1,388, at 36,873.

Sales of 11- to 40-foot outboard fiberglass boats climbed by 18 percent, or 204, to 1,205 for the month and they were up 9.4 percent, or 3,228 boats, at 37,449, for the year.

Overall, sales in the main powerboat segments rose 16.3 percent, or 366 boats, to 2,610 in December and industrywide sales climbed 15.7 percent, or 520 boats, to 3,822.

Even though December is typically the slowest sales month of the year, “it’s still nice to see those double-digit gains year over year,” Statistical Surveys national marine sales manager Ryan Kloppe said.

Full-year sales in the early reporting states totaled 198,476 for the year, a gain of 2.1 percent from 2012, and Kloppe said that nationwide the industry is virtually assured of selling more boats this year than it did last year. In 2012, 202,403 boats were sold across all 50 states, an increase of 9.6 percent from 2011. It was the first time since 2009 that sales topped 200,000.

Sales in the main segments are up 6 percent for the year, or 7,216 boats, at 127,068, in the early reporting states.

“It’s a great outlook for the industry,” Kloppe said. “We also follow the RV industry and sales there were up 13 to 14 percent in 2013. If we can get that positive momentum going in the boat industry — and we are seeing some of that momentum — I think we can continue to get positive, moderate growth for 2014.”

Florida was the December sales leader among the early reporting states at 1,437 boats, followed by Texas (469), Louisiana (309), California (271) and North Carolina (155).

Florida (1,073), Texas (434) and Louisiana (299) also led the sales list last year.

Rounding out the top 10 in December this year were Arizona (143), Georgia (122), Michigan and Tennessee (each with 115) and Washington (104).

Sales of 31- to 40-foot cruisers rose by six in December to 45, sales of 41- to 62-foot yachts fell by five, to 44, and sales of 63- to 99-foot semicustom and custom yachts were flat at 13. 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.

Sales in all three categories were higher for the year in the early-reporting states, which Kloppe said shows that those segments are healthier than some industry observers had thought.

This article originally appeared in the March 2014 issue.

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