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Fiberglass boat sales down 40.5 percent in October

Sales of fiberglass boats dropped 40.5 percent in October, according to early release data.

Last year at the same time there was slight growth, showing a healthy clearing of inventories closing the fall selling season. This year, the market was stagnant in October because of a record low in consumer confidence and unstable financing resources.

These statistics include 29 early reporting states that represent approximately 63 percent of the national market.

Fiberglass boats in the 14- to 30-foot segment were down 40.8 percent for the month, similar to the entire fiberglass market. On a year-to-date basis, the market was down 31.7 percent. This decline is expected to continue through year’s end and into the 2009 model year.

Aluminum boats sales also declined in October, dropping 25.2 percent. Aluminum sales were down 17.7 percent for 12 months through October. For nine months ending in September, the decline was 18.2 percent.

Lower volume states posted some slight gains, but not enough to offset the larger declines in the top 10 reporting states in the period.

PWCs also posted another month of decline, falling 39.2 percent. They were down 27.6 percent for the year-to-date period.

October preliminary results point to an extremely challenging marketplace. The fourth quarter is traditionally a lower volume period, but the slowdown in retail activity for October was extreme.

Dealers and manufacturers will need consumer confidence to turn around for at least a quarter before they will see the bottom of this market contraction. With gas prices falling, even the oil states are showing lower retail activity.

According to the experts in our industry, dealers and manufacturers must trim all costs to a minimum and focus their sales efforts on more robust markets, such as the health care and professional markets, while they wait for the real estate and financial markets to stabilize.

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

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This article originally appeared in the January 2009 issue.

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