After two consecutive months of double-digit gains, U.S. recreational boat sales fell in January in the main powerboat segments and industrywide for the first time since last spring.
The last broad-based decline occurred in May and the January stumble was only the second since February 2014. Sales have been moderately and steadily climbing in recent years as the industry continues its recovery from Great Recession lows.
Sales fell 6.1 percent to 3,292 boats in the main segments and 6.5 percent to 4,542 industrywide from the same month last year in 30 states that represent about 62 percent of the U.S. market, Statistical Surveys reported.
January is one of the industry’s slowest months, so the numbers were relatively small and Statistical Surveys sales director Ryan Kloppe said it is difficult to pinpoint the reason that sales were slower.
“Most of the country is in the winter season and the boating season is just getting under way,” he said.
Among the top 10 states for sales, more boats were sold in four, fewer in five and Tennessee had 161 sales, flat with the same month last year. Florida was the sales leader with 1,508, followed by Texas with 719, North Carolina with 236, Alabama with 209 and Arkansas with 203.
Rounding out the top 10, California had 201 sales, South Carolina 198, Michigan 191, Tennessee 161 and Washington 128.
Texas, Arkansas, Michigan and Washington reported higher sales (Texas and Arkansas sales were a single boat higher), and Florida, North Carolina, Alabama, California and South Carolina reported lower sales.
Kloppe was in South Florida recently for the Miami International Boat Show and Yachts Miami Beach and he said the volume of new models and the Miami show’s new location at the Miami Marine Stadium Park and Basin were well-received.
“People liked seeing the boats in the water, so I think you’ll see a lot of manufacturers get some good sales out of there,” he said.
In January, sales in the early-reporting states were highest in the small-to-medium-size outboard fiberglass category, where 1,516 boats were sold, 6.1 percent fewer than in the same month last year.
Sales in two other popular categories — aluminum fishing boats and aluminum pontoon boats — fell 8.7 percent (84 boats) and 5.4 percent (28 boats), respectively. The only category in the main segments that showed a gain was ski and wakeboard boats, where sales rose by 16 to 137.
Sales in the fiberglass sterndrive segment were 2.6 percent lower (four boats) at 147, but that was one of the smallest declines among the main segments. The struggling category has turned toward growth in recent months.
The Coast Guard was up to date in its reports on documented vessels, providing complete figures in the bigger-boat categories. Sales of 31- to 40-foot cruisers fell by 15 to 61 in the early-reporting states. Sales of 41- to 62-foot yachts fell by one to 49 and sales of 63- to 99-foot semicustom and custom yachts also fell by one to 13.
The personal watercraft and jetboat categories were among the few sales gainers for the month. PWC sales rose 2.4 percent, or 15 units, to 651, and jetboat sales climbed by one to 50.
Sailboat sales also increased, rising by seven to 74.
This article originally appeared in the April 2016 issue.