Last year, the recreational boating industry was celebrating its best March results since 2008 — sales gains of 21 percent in the main powerboat segments and 20 percent industrywide.
The industry achieved similar total sales in March this year — 14,572 in 25 early-reporting states that represent 54 percent of the U.S. market, versus 15,246 in 28 states and 64 percent of the market last year — but the percentage gains were slim this year because last year’s performance was difficult to beat.
Sales this March in the main powerboat segments totaled 10,259, up just 14 boats, or 0.1 percent from last year, and the industrywide total amounted to a gain of 261 (1.8 percent), Statistical Surveys reported.
Statistical Surveys sales director Ryan Kloppe said industry executives knew that the March results would provide a tough comparison and were watching to see what the figures would be. He said the industry’s ability to achieve March sales that topped last year’s performance was a good sign.
“It’s still positive momentum for the industry,” he said. “Unit volume is still climbing. All signs point to continued moderate growth.”
Outboard fiberglass boats were the industry’s top seller in the early-reporting states. Sales of 3,770 were up by 90, or 2.4 percent, from last March. Sales of aluminum pontoon boats rose 2.3 percent, or 49, to 2,212, and sales of aluminum fishing boats were nearly flat, falling by six boats, or 0.2 percent, to 2,933.
Kloppe said outboard fiberglass boat sales were up 17 percent in the early-reporting states last March and pontoon sales were up 28 percent.
“You’re up against a tough comparison, but you’re still coming out on top,” he said.
Kloppe also noted that eight of the top 10 states had improved results this year.
Florida led the nation in sales with 3,379 (up from 3,115 last year) and Texas was second at 2,313 (up from 2,165). Michigan ranked third with 1,291 (up from 1,258); North Carolina was fourth with 1,116 (up from 1,082); and Alabama was fifth with 984 (down from 1,002).
Rounding out the top 10 were Ohio at 704 (up from 588); Arkansas at 565 (up from 538); Kentucky at 515 (up from 437); New York at 511 (down from 654); and California at 478 (up from 400).
Sales of ski and wake boats fell by six, or 1.3 percent, to 470. Outside the main segments, sales of personal watercraft climbed by 10.9 percent, or 253, to 2,580, achieving a double-digit gain on top of 25 percent growth in March 2016.
“It’s a strong category,” Kloppe said, adding that it could easily top pre-recession figures this year. A total of 60,385 PWC were sold in 2008 and 59,610 were sold last year, continuing a string of annual increases as the industry recovers from the Great Recession.
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 eight to 85. Sales of 41- to 65-foot yachts fell by seven to 64 and sales of 66-foot and larger semicustom and custom yachts rose by one to 11.
Jetboat sales rose by 10 to 311. Sailboat sales fell by 50 to 100.
This article originally appeared in the June 2017 issue.