Recreational boat sales growth in March amounted to just a trickle, but the solid single-digit increases the industry saw in April suggest that builders and dealers could enjoy sustainable gains in the warmer months ahead.
Sales in the industry’s main powerboat segments rose 5 percent to 10,973 and industrywide sales climbed 8.9 percent to 17,061 from the same month a year earlier in 30 early reporting states that represent about 64 percent of the U.S. boat market, Statistical Surveys said.
“I think this is the start of a good swing and the momentum we needed, and all we need now is some good spring weather to kick the boating season into full gear,” Statistical Surveys national marine sales manager Ryan Kloppe said.
Among the high-volume categories, the 11- to 40-foot outboard segment stood out. Sales there rose 11.3 percent, or 377 boats, to 3,703, and they are up 6.6 percent for the year through April at 10,692 in the early-reporting states.
Kloppe said boats in that segment are versatile and come with a range of pricing options.
“I think that’s going to be the hot category this year,” he said.
Sales of aluminum fishing boats managed a gain of 4.2 percent, or 133 boats, to 3,292, but the aluminum pontoon category was nearly flat, slipping by seven boats to 2,611. Kloppe said that when the rest of the states report their April sales the results in those two groups should improve.
Sales rose in categories that embraced the largest and smallest boats on the market.
Bigger-boat segments had double-digit gains. The 31- to 40-foot cruiser category saw a 25-boat increase, or 20.5 percent, to 147; the 41- to 62-foot yacht segment had a gain of 18 boats, or 22.2 percent, to 99; and the 63- to 99-foot custom and semicustom yacht segment showed an increase of 10 boats, or 40 percent, to 35.
The Coast Guard was up to date in its reports of documented vessels, giving a complete picture of sales in the bigger-boat categories.
Among the smaller-boat categories, sales of ski boats climbed 24.4 percent, or 114, to 582; sales of jetboats rose 10.2 percent, or 29, to 314; and sales of personal watercraft jumped 28 percent, or 631 units, to 2,886.
Sales were higher in eight of the top 10 states than they were in the same month last year. Florida led with 2,671 sales, up 25.5 percent. Texas had 2,227, up 6.1 percent, and Michigan reported 1,518, up 9.4 percent. Sales in North Carolina were up 6.6 percent at 1,040 and they were up 44.8 percent in Georgia at 889.
Rounding out the top 10, sales were down 6.8 percent in New York at 889; up 13.1 percent in Tennessee at 744; up 10.2 percent in Arizona at 670; down 13.3 percent in Ohio at 587; and up 15.6 percent in California at 571.
Sales were higher in 21 of the early reporting states in April.
Sailboat sales fell 7.7 percent, or 18 boats, to 216.
This article originally appeared in the July 2014 issue.