No surprises in May; boat sales were down again

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May registration figures from early-reporting states point to a continued  decline in retail new-boat sales.

The report includes data from 26 early-reporting states that represent approximately 62 percent of the national market. These preliminary results help identify the prevailing marine market retail trends for states that are able to report on a weekly or monthly basis.

The May data showed aluminum boats fared better than fiberglass in percentage of decline.

Fiberglass boats in the popular 14- to 30-foot range were down 35.8 percent from May 2008, on volume of 6,330 units. On a rolling 12-month basis, this market was down 38.1 percent.

Aluminum boat sales dropped 27.9 percent in May on volume of 6,192 units, and were down 24.2 percent in the 12 month period since May 2008.

Sales of personal watercraft decreased by 30.6 percent in the month and were down 30.5 percent in May on a 12-month rolling basis.

The retail market volume was prematurely low for this time of year. Consumers appear to have been responding to the continued uncertainty in the marketplace and withholding their purchases of big-ticket items.

The struggles continued from a first-quarter slump.

Sales of new boats showed a substantial drop in the first quarter of 2009. The total fiberglass segment, including PWC, fell 38.8 percent and aluminum sales were off 28.4 percent, based on registration data from 48 states, or 99 percent of the U.S. boat market. Alabama data was incomplete for February and March because of delays in data entry.

Boat sales hit record lows for the second consecutive first-quarter period. All categories recorded declines in the low 40 percent range, with the aluminum market posting the smallest declines.

This article originally appeared in the August 2009 issue.

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