Driven by the three boat types that have been the industry’s strongest sellers since the last recession ended, recreational boatbuilders and dealers began 2017 with high single-digit January gains.
Sales rose 8 percent in the main powerboat segments to 3,584 and 9.5 percent industrywide to 5,062 from the same month last year in 28 states that represent about 59 percent of the U.S. market, according to Statistical Surveys.
The gains were concentrated among fiberglass outboard boats and aluminum fishing and pontoon boats. Although January is one of the slowest months of the year, the results bode well for 2017 expectations.
“First month of the year, it definitely does help, and it will help drive momentum,” Statistical Surveys sales director Ryan Kloppe said.
Sales in January 2016 were down 6.1 percent in the main segments and 6.5 percent industrywide in 30 early-reporting states — a factor that helps to make the 2017 data look better.
“You had an easier year-over-year comparison,” Kloppe said.
More than half of the January activity this year occurred in Florida, where 1,885 boats were sold, 229 more than in the same month last year, and Texas, which reported 710 sales, although that was 32 fewer than the 742 recorded a year earlier.
Kloppe said the three top-selling categories are popular in the warm-weather states that drive the industry at this time of year.
He also cited promising results from California, which is recovering from a years-long drought. Only 284 boats were sold there in January, but that was 92 more than last year’s 184 and Kloppe expects sales to trend upward in the Golden State.
“I think you’ll see boating continue to thrive there with the amount of snow and rain they’ve had,” he said.
Fiberglass outboards outsold every other industry category in January. By percentage it was the top gainer among the main segments. Sales of 1,708 boats were up 12 percent, or 183, from 1,525 in the same month last year.
Sales of aluminum fishing boats rose 11 percent, or 99 boats, to 995, from 896 a year earlier. Pontoon boat sales were up 5.8 percent, or 27, at 496.
Sales of inboard and sterndrive boats continued to struggle, falling 12.2 percent, or 19 boats, to 137.
Florida and Texas ranked first and second in sales among the early-reporting states. The rest of the top 10 consisted of North Carolina, at 301 (up from 245 last year); California, at the aforementioned 284 (up from 192); Alabama, at 255 (up from 212); Michigan, at 202 (up from 186); Tennessee, at 192 (up from 160); Arkansas, at 177 (down from 200); Washington, at 140 (up from 126); and Delaware, at 110 (up from 106).
Overall, sales rose in eight of the top 10 states, but in just 16 of the 28 early-reporting states.
Nationally, sales of personal watercraft rose 7 percent, or 48 units, to 729, and jetboat sales were up 10 at 50. Sales of ski and wake boats fell by eight to 132.
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 13 to 53. Sales of 41- to 65-foot yachts fell by four to 56 and sales of custom and semicustom yachts 66 feet and larger were flat, at seven.
Sailboat sales rose by 21 to 109.
This article originally appeared in the April 2017 issue.