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December sales figures conclude a down year

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Early numbers point to 32 percent loss for ’08; results of early winter shows provide some lift

Boat registrations in December showed a continuation of the yearlong decline in sales. Total fiberglass boats, including personal watercraft, fell 28.4 percent on 2,508 units for the month.

These statistics are based on data from 27 early-reporting states that represent approximately 62 percent of the national market.

Final new-boat sales results for December are not available until all the states report to Statistical Surveys, Inc., and are scheduled for final release in mid-March.

Fiberglass boats in the popular lengths of 14 to 30 feet declined by 33 percent on 1,560 units. For the calendar year, the market was down 31.9 percent on 69,040 units. South Dakota and New Mexico were the only states to post positive growth year-to-date in this segment. Florida led the nation in unit sales with 553, but on a year-over-year basis, that figure was down 39 percent from December 2007, when 910 boats were sold.

Aluminum boat sales fell 19.5 percent in December and were down 18.7 percent in 2008. Total units for the calendar year were 58,540, down from 72,069 in 2007.

PWC experienced a softer decline in December, falling 9.2 percent in the month on 502 units, and were down 27.4 percent for the 12-month period on 40,518 units.

December saw a slower rate of decline from November, but not enough to signal the end of below-normal retail activity. Mixed results from early winter boat shows are helping some, but a solid recovery is not anticipated for most until late in 2009.

Aarn D. Rosen is national marine sales manager for Statistical Surveys, the Grand Rapids, Mich.-based firm that tracks retail boat sales.

This article originally appeared in the March 2009 issue.

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