November was Third Straight Month of YOY Declines

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New-boat registrations were down in November in nearly every segment in a year-over-year comparison with November 2017. It was the third consecutive month of overall declines.

On a year-to-date basis through November, registrations were up 3.7 percent in the main powerboat categories and 3.5 percent overall, according to preliminary data that tracking firm Statistical Surveys gathered from 30 states. The data represents almost 63 percent of the U.S. market.

November’s data showed a 4.9 percent year-over-year decline in the main powerboat segments and a 3.2 percent drop overall. Though not a spectacular closing to 2018, the industry is still on track to achieve 3.5 to 4 percent growth overall after seven years of growth, says SSI sales director Ryan Kloppe.

Analysts following the industry reacted similarly, pointing out that the comparisons to November 2017 were challenging since sales grew at a robust 7.7 percent. And while nearly every category was down year-over-year, most posted gains year-to-date.

“This is now the third consecutive month of underwhelming industry trends,” writes SunTrust analyst Michael Swartz. “That said, it is not unexpected, in our view, given general retail softness across the board in consumer-land during the month of November and challenging weather/natural events in several key boating markets [such as] Florida, Texas and California. Further, the November registration data was up against a tough comp, and the month represents just 3 percent of annual industry retail sales, in any event.”

Severe weather not only included some of the coldest and snowiest conditions reported for the month, but winter storms Avery and Bruce disrupted the central and eastern states, writes B. Riley analyst Eric Wold. “Based on our dealer checks, we cannot rule out the impact that the significant fires in California had on boat-buying demand during the month but also on deliveries/registration,” he says in his report.

California posted increases, but Kloppe says some of the registrations could have been stragglers from October.

U.S. wholesale is outpacing retail, writes Tim Conder, an analyst for Wells Fargo. But that is typical for the off-season, as dealers rebuild stock following recent boat and engine production constraints that will likely balance out this year. “We are not concerned with similar inventory issues as with RVs developing in the marine space, as stocking levels remain relatively modest,” Conder writes.

Aluminum fishing boats, the third-strongest category for November, saw a 2.8 percent dip in the month. The outboard fiberglass segment, which has declined for several consecutive months, was off nearly 10 percent from November last year and was poised to post around a 2 percent increase for the year.

Pontoon sales were up 3.7 percent and on track to be up about 5 percent for the year. PWC registrations also continued to climb, with a 10.4 percent increase over last November and an 8 percent hike year to date. More than 67,000 units sold were sold through November.

Towboats, up 8.6 percent over November 2017, led growth with 177 registrations for the month. That segment was up nearly 10 percent year-to-date and is positioned to overtake the sterndrive segment. There were fewer than 10,300 sterndrive boats registered as of November 2018 for the year, versus 10,147 towboats.

This article originally appeared in the February 2019 issue.

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