Despite lousy spring weather, April sales grew

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A wet, cool spring that blanketed much of the United States caused boat sales in some categories, such as pontoons, to lag this April, but other categories — including yachts, aluminum fishing boats and sailboats — showed strong improvement.

Sales of new yachts and aluminum fishing boats helped bolster overall new boat sales during the month, while sales in segments including pontoons reflected a chilly, wet spring, particularly in the Midwest.

Preliminary data from Statistical Surveys Inc., which measured boat registrations from 30 early-reporting states accounting for about 57.8 percent of the U.S. market, showed that sales were up 1.4 percent in all categories and were up 4.1 percent in main powerboat categories, including aluminum fish, pontoon, fiberglass outboards, yachts and tow boats.

The data showed wild fluctuations based on geography. Florida was up almost 1.5 percent, and Texas was up 7.14 percent. Michigan was surprisingly up just over 1.5 percent, but North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and New York — the states ranked No. 6 through No. 9 for top performers — all declined in April.

Most notably, New York registrations dropped nearly 28 percent as the Northeast faced several cold fronts and a nor’easter in April. Georgia (No. 7) and Alabama (No. 8) declined 7.39 percent and 7.25 percent, respectively.

“I think what most people are going to see right off the bat is that pontoons were down a little bit for the first time,” says SSI sales director Ryan Kloppe.

But pontoon sales thrive in the Midwest, Kloppe says, adding that his home state of Michigan leads the segment in sales and that, in late May, temperatures hadn’t risen past the mid-50s.

“If you have a pontoon that you’ve bought, you probably haven’t even registered it,” he says. “When May numbers come, you’ll see another lull because the weather is so bad this year.”

Nevertheless, some categories performed well, says Kloppe.

Aluminum fishing boat registrations grew 14 percent, from 3,462 to 3,968, data showed. Sales of cruisers 31 to 40 feet, yachts 41 to 65 feet, and yachts 66 feet and larger were all up dramatically.

The cruiser segment grew 38.8 percent compared with April 2017, from 80 to 111; yacht sales jumped 102.6 percent, from 39 last year to 79 this year; and registrations of yachts 66 feet and longer went from seven in April 2017 to 18 this past April, accounting for a 157 percent increase.

“Larger boats are up quite a bit in this go-round,” Kloppe says. “They are smaller in units, but much larger in dollars.”

Sailboats also saw an increase, from 94 sold in April 2017 to 117 sold this past April, accounting for a 24.5 percent increase.

And pointing out the silver lining of the rainy spring, Kloppe says lakes will be nice and full when the weather does finally get warmer.

“That’s one reason we’re seeing continued strength in California,” Kloppe says, pointing to a 5.55 percent increase in sales this April compared with April 2017. “Their lakes are full as well. I don’t think drought is something we have to worry about. We just need to get some warm weather.”

This article originally appeared in the July 2018 issue.

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