Buoyed by successful winter shows and good early spring weather, the recreational boating industry had its best March in eight years, as sales soared 21.3 percent in the main segments and 19.9 percent industrywide.
Statistical Surveys says 15,246 boats were sold in 28 states that represent 64 percent of the national market — the most since 16,546 were sold in the early-reporting states in March 2008 before the start of the Great Recession.
“We heard some rumblings that this was coming down the pike,” says Statistical Surveys sales director Ryan Kloppe, noting upbeat anecdotal reports from boat manufacturers he met at the winter shows. “We were ready to see these kinds of numbers.”
Main segments sales totaled 10,917, up from 8,999 in March 2015, and every category in the group had double-digit gains.
Small-to-midsize fiberglass boats were the industry’s top seller with 4,008, a gain of 16.9 percent, and aluminum pontoons were the top gainer percentagewise, rising 28 percent to 2,336 boats.
“Pontoons are still driving a large portion of the boat business,” Kloppe says.
Even the sterndrive category, which has struggled in recent years, saw sales climb 17.5 percent to 718 boats. Kloppe says sterndrive sales began showing indications of a turnaround late last year.
“Now we’re seeing a little bit of it,” he says.
Sales of aluminum fishing boats climbed 22.2 percent to 3,195.
Florida led the nation with 2,999 sales, followed by Texas (2,095), Michigan (1,266), North Carolina (1,060) and Alabama (981).
The rest of the top 10 were South Carolina (600), New York (596), Washington (564), Ohio (559) and Arkansas (545). March sales were higher in each of the 10 states than in the same month last year.
The Coast Guard was up to date in its reports on documented vessels, providing complete figures in the bigger-boat categories. Sales of 31- to 40-foot cruisers rose by 11 to 105. Sales of 41- to 65-foot yachts rose by 19 to 74, and sales of 66-foot and larger semicustom and custom yachts rose by two to 14.
Sales of personal watercraft rose 25 percent to 2,393 and jetboat sales rose 29.2 percent to 301. Ski and wake boat sales climbed 29.4 percent to 467.
Sailboat sales fell by five to 156.
This article originally appeared in the June 2016 issue.