Demand is Not Letting Up

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The marine industry was poised to exceed 300,000 units for the first time since the Great Recession after seeing strong gains continue through November. Preliminary data from 33 states, accounting for more than 65 percent of the U.S. market, showed boat registrations in the main powerboat segments rose 8 percent year to date and more than 32 percent versus November 2019, according to Statistical Surveys, a Michigan firm that tracks new-boat registrations.

Registrations were up more than 28 percent year over year in the main powerboat categories, and almost 12 percent year to date. “Obviously we’re getting some boats sold out there,” says SSI sales director Ryan Kloppe. “It’s not huge numbers — it’s end-of-season numbers — but we’re continuing to see growth. The season is ending on a high note.”

Pontoons had the strongest month, up more than 67 percent versus November 2019 and rising more than 17 percent for the year thus far. Ski and wake had another strong month, with registrations up more than 64 percent versus November last year and up almost 19 percent year to date.

Aluminum fishing boats also had a strong month, rising 34.5 percent year over year and 7.9 percent year to date.

In the total industry categories, PWC registrations were up 59 percent versus last November (up 2.7 percent for the year), and jetboats rose 121 percent ­— now up 15.2 percent for the year.

With inventories at very low levels, even the sterndrive/inboard categories have seen meaningful registration increases, with a consolidated year-to-date gain of 7.2 percent, versus a decline of 11.4 percent in November 2019, states B. Riley Securities analyst Eric Wold in a report issued after the numbers were released.

“With dealer inventories remaining at multiyear, if not multidecade, lows, we see an attractive setup for the group over the next 12 to 18 months, as full production levels will be necessary just to return dealer inventories to appropriate levels to satisfy normal demand,” Wold stated.

Virtual fireside chats between B. Riley analysts and the management teams at Brunswick Corp. and MasterCraft Boat Holdings in late 2020 have made it “increasingly clear that boat demand is not letting up into the typically slower season or after the announcement of Covid-19 vaccine availability — with order books continuing to expand into next year,” writes Wold.

Florida appeared to be behind in tracking its registrations, said Kloppe, indicating that the numbers could strengthen when everything has been accounted.

“The needle can’t move too much more — we’re up double digits for the main powerboat segments and 8 percent overall for the year,” says Kloppe.

“That puts us around 307,000 units for the year, and over 300,000 for sure. The last time it’s been that high was pre-2008.” 

This article was originally published in the February 2021 issue.

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