The heat of July — the heart of the American summer — never fails to lure boat owners and their families to the water. This year, it also apparently attracted plenty of new people to boating.
After the industry’s late spring rally appeared to fade in June, recreational boat sales suddenly got hot in July. Led by aluminum pontoon boats and 11- to 40-foot outboards, five of the seven categories in the industry’s main powerboat segments showed double-digit sales gains in 31 early reporting states, according to figures compiled by Statistical Surveys.
Pontoon sales rose 24.8 percent, or 769 boats, to 3,867, giving the increasingly popular segment the best results of any of the industry’s high-volume categories. Close behind were small to mid-sized outboards, where the gain was 23.1 percent, or 658 boats, to 3,512.
Sales of aluminum fishing boats, which have closely tracked pontoons for more than a year, rose a strong 20.4 percent, or 449 boats, to 2,652.
Sales in the main segments rose 18 percent overall, or 1,771 boats, to 11,609, and industrywide sales gained 12.9 percent, or 2,317 boats, to 20,318. The early-reporting states represent 62 percent of the national market.
Ryan Kloppe, national marine sales manager at Statistical Surveys, said it was a relief to finally see the surge in boat sales that the industry has been expecting.
“Everybody has been talking about pent-up demand,” he said. “We’re obviously seeing some of that in July.”
With 19 states and more than a third of the market yet to report, the industry has a chance to surpass its 50-state totals for July 2012, when 14,767 boats were sold in the main segments and 28,192 were sold industrywide as sales continued a year-long recovery from recession-era levels.
Sales of 31- to 40-foot cruisers grew by 10 boats to 98 in July and sales of 41- to 62-foot yachts rose by 15 to 70. The Coast Guard was up to date on its reports of documented vessels, so the sales figures for boats larger than 31 feet were complete.
The 14- to 30-foot sterndrive and inboard category was the only one in the main segments that had a poor month. Sales in the category dropped by 127 boats, or 8.4 percent, to 1,391.
Sales of ski boats, which traditionally do well in the summer, rose 19.7 percent, or 113, to 686, and personal watercraft sales climbed by 532 units, or 10.1 percent, to 5,815.
Sales of jetboats continued to suffer in the absence of Sea-Doo, which has left the market, falling by 176 boats, or 34.6 percent, to 333. Kloppe has said he expects sales in the segment to improve once builders that plan to move into it begin to roll out their boats.
Sailboat sales rose 9.5 percent, or 20 boats, to 231.
This article originally appeared in the October 2013 issue.