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June boat sales headed for record lows

Early data point to big dips in all segments; Falling fuel prices raise hopes for a rebound

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Early release data compiled by Statistical Surveys of Grand Rapids, Mich., points to record low sales for all new-boat segments for June.

These statistics are based on data from 26 early reporting states, which represent approximately 60 percent of the national market.

This early release report is intended to provide a snapshot of sales volume in the marine industry for states that are willing to report on a monthly basis. Final results for June will not be available until all the states report to Statistical Surveys.

Fiberglass boats in the popular lengths of 14 to 30 feet, the most important market segment, were down dramatically from last June, falling 36.6 percent in this preliminary data. On a rolling 12-month basis, the market was down 19.9 percent.

Total sales of fiberglass boats in all size categories dropped by 33.1 percent for the month and 17 percent for 12 months rolling.

Aluminum boat sales were also hard  hit in June, falling 24.3 percent. They were down 11.5 percent for twelve months through June, 2007, according to the preliminary numbers.

Personal watercraft sales also were hard hit, along with all the other boating market segments. PWC volume was off 29.4 percent in the month. For the rolling 12-month period, this segment has fallen 13.6 percent.

The 2008 retail market volume through June has been dismal. Once all states report, I believe the final data for the second quarter 2008 will be down significantly from last year.
Nobody anticipated such an extreme market contraction. I’m hoping that the positive trends in fuel pricing in the third quarter will help us reach the bottom of this business cycle sooner, rather than later.

The Consumer Confidence Index, compiled by the New York-based Conference Board, held steady in July, rising to 51.9 from June’s figure of 51. The Expectations Index increased moderately to 43 from June’s 41.4. “Consumers’ assessment of current conditions was little changed, suggesting there has been no significant improvement, nor significant deterioration, in business or labor market conditions,” said Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board Consumer Research Center. “Looking ahead, while consumers remain extremely grim about short-term prospects, the modest improvement in expectations, often a harbinger of economic times to come, bears careful watching over the next few months.”

This article originally appeared in the September 2008 issue.

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