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Brokerage sales rise in August; new boats gain share

U.S. brokerage sales reported by YachtWorld member brokers rose 2 percent in August to 2,983 boats from the same month last year, the first monthly uptick since April.
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U.S. brokerage sales reported by YachtWorld member brokers rose 2 percent in August to 2,983 boats from the same month last year, the first monthly uptick since April.

August sales fit the 2016 pattern of incremental gains and losses, compared with the previous August, according to the brokers’ aggregate data in SoldBoats, their proprietary database. For the year through August, sales were down 1 percent, or 290 boats, as 21,606 were sold.

Two months ago we reported on five-year trends in the mix of powerboats and sailboats that brokers were selling, as well as the sales patterns for boats of different size ranges.

This month we look at the five-year changes in YachtWorld member brokers’ sales not only of used boats, but new, as well (see table). What the numbers indicate is that an increasing proportion of boats reported sold by these brokers is new. The total remains a very small percentage of the roughly 30,000 boats reported each year, but over five years it has increased by nearly two percentage points, or about 500 to 600 boats annually.

Since the Great Recession there has been additional blurring of the lines between new-boat dealers and yacht brokerages. Some dealers added a brokerage department, and some brokerages began representing larger new-yacht lines. However, the larger reason for the shift appears to be relatively low levels of recent-model inventory alongside new, well differentiated models for sale.

“Quality brands today recognize the need to introduce new models with new features, allowing the consumer to enjoy something new that others may not have,” says Darren Plymale, of Galati Yachts in Florida. “The idea of having a product that offers the latest technology, creature comforts and other features creates an allure for someone seeking to boat today.”

The shift did not happen overnight, says Barrett Canfield of South Coast Yacht Sales in San Diego.

“Since 2010 the market steadily but very slowly improved, but then we experienced a strong and steady rush of new-boat sales in 2015 for both sail and power,” he says.

Canfield attributes this to pent-up demand from those who chose to wait during the recession and new boaters who “planted financial and career seeds in the recession and now were experiencing comfortable financial success.”

Canfield notes that continued demand has created supply problems for manufacturers that are trying to keep up.

“That, in turn,” he says, “made 2016 a very strong brokerage year, also — July and August of this year were two of our strongest brokerage months in our history.”

Plymale says key contributing factors in improved new-boat sales are “consumer confidence, the stock market, low fuel prices and interest rates.”

“Some have asked us how this election year might negatively affect sales, and we are surprised to say … not at all,” Canfield says. “Nobody on the docks or on the water is talking about it. They just want to get out on the boat and live! Boats seem to relieve the stress of media bombardment.”

John Burnham is the managing editor of Dominion Marine Media.

This article originally appeared in the October 2016 issue.

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