Off the Charts

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Soundings March 2021

Preliminary data from to Statistical Surveys, a Michigan firm that tracks new-boat registrations, continued to reflect a near-crazed demand for product.

With 31 states reporting, approximately 63 percent of the U.S. boating market, registrations in March were up 55 percent in the main powerboat categories and 34 percent on a year-over-year basis in those segments.

While comparisons to March 2020 may be skewed due to last year’s Covid-related shutdowns and work-from-home orders, they reflect a pattern seen during the last several months, with no signs of abating.

Total industry registrations were up 44 percent YOY with 46,407 boats sold. For the month, registrations for all categories came in at 22,238, a 67 percent spike from the same period last year.

For March, every category except aluminum boats smaller than 16 feet was up double digits, led by outboard fiberglass boats in units sold. The class — representing a range of boats from 11 to 50 feet — was up 28 percent YOY (to 12,330 from 9,649) and 48 percent for the month (to 5,412 from 3,649).

Pontoons continued a pattern of strong sales, up by 61 percent YOY (to 4,037 from 2,280) and posting a 77 percent surge compared with March 2020.

Ski and wakeboats saw 90 percent growth for the month (to 982 from 517). The segment is up 64 percent in a year-over-year comparison.

Personal watercraft continued to reflect a popular entry point for buyers. PWC sales totaled nearly 6,000 units for the month (from 2,653), up 125 percent. With 11,250 units sold, PWC are up 103 percent on a YOY basis.

Some other numbers that reflect the times: Electric boat sales saw a 314 percent jump for March (to 29 from 7) and a 151 percent gain in year-over-year sales (to 68 from 27).

And in what may reflect an approach to working remotely, houseboat registrations rose 266 percent, with 11 units sold in March.

The Sunshine State again led the nation in registrations with 5,287, a 67 percent gain compared with 3,157 the previous year. No. 2 Texas is showing signs of a full recovery from a polar vortex that crippled the state during winter, with registrations up 76 percent (to 2,294 from 1,661).

No. 3 Michigan emerged from winter in a big way, with registrations up 105 percent from March 2020 (to 1,022 from 490). North Carolina and Alabama rounded out the top five states.

In a pattern that the industry has seen during the last several months, builders continued to expand facilities to meet demand while addressing supply-chain issues.

Product availability seems to be the only thing that can stop the train. “Boatbuilders continue facing supply-side constraints, and the challenge ahead will be keeping leads evergreen as inventories get replenished and life returns to normal,” Vicky Yu, director of business intelligence at the National Marine Manufacturers Association, said in a statement.

Even as these issues persist, a number of publicly traded companies reported record first quarters, including Brunswick Corp., Malibu Boat Group and OEM supplier Lippert.

MarineMax also posted a record quarter and announced its acquisition of Cruisers Yachts.

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