After stalling in September, the recreational boating industry roared back to life in October with double-digit sales increases in several categories during what is traditionally a low-volume month in the industry.
Sales in the main powerboat segments rose 22.1 percent, to 3,490 boats, from October 2011, and they were up 21 percent to 5,181 boats industrywide, according to figures compiled by Ryan Kloppe, national marine sales manager at Statistical Surveys Inc.
In October 2011, sales in the main powerboat segments and across the industry declined by double digits in early-reporting states. Kloppe believes the new figures show that consumers are gaining confidence as the economy and the job and housing markets gradually improve.
“People are starting to feel a little more comfortable in their situation,” he said.
Kloppe said the October sales information is based on registration data from 27 early-reporting states that comprise about 62 percent of the national market. October typically produces only about 3.5 percent to 4.5 percent of the industry’s sales for the year, but he said the month’s numbers were nonetheless impressive.
“It’s pretty significant,” Kloppe said of the gains. “I don’t want to overhype it, but it is nice to see these improvements.”
Sales of aluminum pontoon boats, an industry leader throughout 2012, rose 44.6 percent to 522 in October and sales of aluminum fishing boats climbed 16.8 percent to 1,062. Sales of small aluminum boats are “relatively soft, but the 16-foot-plus section is doing well,” Kloppe said.
Sales in the high-volume 11- to 40-foot outboard fiberglass segment rose 24.7 percent to 1,540 boats and sales in that category are up 13.1 percent for the year to 31,257 boats. Kloppe said New York, Florida and Texas are leading the way in sales of deckboats and bass boats in the 11- to-40-foot segment, and also in jetboats.
Even sales of 14- to 30-foot inboard and sterndrive fiberglass boats, which have struggled for months, rose 18 percent in October to 301 boats. They remain 2.2 percent lower for the year.
Sales in three categories of cruisers and yachts continued to struggle, dropping by margins ranging from 22.9 percent to 46.3 percent. Among those segments, only the 63- to 99-foot semi-custom and custom yacht category is showing growth for the year.
Reported sales of documented vessels are about 90 days behind because of data entry delays at the Coast Guard, Kloppe said, creating an incomplete report for boats larger than 31 feet and understating the cruiser and yacht markets.
Through October, main-segment sales are up 11.9 percent to 109,351 boats and industrywide sales are up 9.6 percent to 177,053 boats.
“We’re optimistic as the numbers tick upward, but are aware that the numbers aren’t what they used to be five years ago,” Kloppe said.
Sales of jetboats, ski boats and personal watercraft were sharply higher during the month, although the sales totals reflect October’s typically diminished market. PWC sales rose 50.7 percent, or 239 units, to 710, ski boat sales were up 41.2 percent, or 40, to 137, and jetboat sales rose by 35, or 67.3 percent, to 87.
Sales of sailboats fell 9.8 percent, or nine boats, to 83.
This article originally appeared in the January 2013 issue.