It’s official: 2012 was a comeback year for the recreational boating industry.
Industrywide sales rose 9.4 percent, to 196,519 boats, and sales in the main powerboat segments climbed 11.2 percent, to 121,789, compared with the previous year, in 26 early reporting states that represent 64 percent of the nation’s boat market, Statistical Surveys Inc. reported.
Sales were weak during the traditionally slow month of December, but that did little to dispel the notion that the industry has forged a potentially enduring recovery. For the year, sales of 11- to 40-foot outboard fiberglass boats rose 12.9 percent, to 35,257, in the early reporting states and sales of aluminum pontoon boats rose 20.9 percent, to 32,934.
Pontoons and aluminum fishing boats were sales leaders throughout the year. Fishing boat sales rose 9.1 percent, to 36,402.
Unless the economy suffers a shock in 2013, “I really think we’ll continue this slow, moderate growth,” said Ryan Kloppe, national marine sales manager at Statistical Surveys.
Slowed by the aftereffects of Hurricane Sandy, Kloppe said, the industry didn’t have much to celebrate in December. Industrywide sales rose just 1.1 percent, to 3,351, in the early reporting states and sales in the main segments rose only 1.3 percent, to 2,285.
“The full amount of relief hasn’t come to [the areas affected by Sandy],” he said.
December sales traditionally represent only about 2 percent of the year’s total volume.
“It’s a typically slow month,” Kloppe said. “Everyone’s aware of it. To see at least a small increase is nice.”
Kloppe said Florida, Louisiana, Texas, California, Washington, Michigan, Delaware, South Carolina and Tennessee reported sales increases in December.
Pontoon sales rose 10.8 percent, to 257 for the month, and sales of 14- to 30-foot inboard and sterndrive fiberglass boats rose 13 percent, to 174.
Sales of 31- to 40-foot cruisers fell by two boats and sales of 41- to 62-foot yachts dropped by five. Results in the 63- to 99-foot semicustom and custom yacht category were even with a year earlier, at 11 boats, and for the year that segment posted a gain of 35 sales, or 24.1 percent, to 180.
Reported sales of documented vessels were complete only through Sept. 24 because of data entry delays at the Coast Guard, Kloppe said, creating an incomplete report for boats larger than 31 feet and understating the cruiser and yacht markets.
Sales of jetboats fell by 11 in December, to 30, and sales of ski boats fell by five, to 79. Sales of personal watercraft were essentially flat at 306.
The sailboat segment had the highest percentage gain of any industry segment during the month, rising by 16 boats, or 22.9 percent, to 86.
This article originally appeared in the March 2013 issue.