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Pressure Drop

1_BTN-Soundings Nov 2021

For nearly all of 2021, boatbuilders were caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, forced to navigate hazardous conditions created by supply chain woes while trying to meet extraordinary demand.

That imbalance of supply and demand has been reflected in the numbers during the last several months, with a steady decline in sales. One would logically think that November would mark a seventh consecutive month of constricted sales; however, on a month-to-month basis, registrations are slightly up.

Preliminary data from Statistical Surveys, a Michigan firm that tracks new-boat registrations, representing 37 states or about 83 percent of the U.S. boating market showed total industry registrations rose, albeit slightly (0.1 percent) for the month. The main powerboat segments fared better for November, up 2.4 percent compared with November 2020.

The news takes a different tack on a year-to-year basis. Overall registrations in the most popular categories fell 7.2 percent, with total industry registrations showing a 6.2 percent drop from last year’s total of 279,171 boats sold, down from 297,469 through November 2020.

The main powerboat segments bounced back a bit in November, with pontoons posting a 12 percent gain for the month (to 1,793 from 1,604). Outboard-powered boats from 11 to 50 feet saw a slight bump (to 2,954 from 2,923), and sales of cruising boats from 31 to 40 feet jumped 29 percent in November (to 27 from 21).

Total registrations in the main powerboat categories for the year (minus boats larger than 66 feet, up 4.3 percent with 146 units moved) continue to play catch-up. In the most popular segments, pontoon sales have decreased 5.2 percent (to 61,220 from 64,577), with outboard-powered boats down 3,778 units, a 6.3 percent drop.

In contrast, the categories that have performed well for all of 2021 are still showing solid gains for the year. A few months back, sailboats eclipsed 2020’s total sales numbers, and the segment continues to enjoy fair winds and following seas with a 16 percent gain for the month (to 51 from 44) and 26 percent jump for the year, with 1,404 boats sold (from 1,117).

Electric boats are making market share gains, as well. In November, e-boat sales increased 47 percent (to 22 from 15) and like sailboats, left 2020’s total sales numbers in its wake, moving 295 units through November (from 230).

There were also some positive signs when looking at the data on a state-by-state basis, with 18 out of 37 reporting states posting net gains for the month, including six of the top 10 states: No. 1 Florida, No. 3 South Carolina, No. 4 California, No. 6 Georgia, No. 8 Michigan and No. 10 Tennessee.

While it’s clear that 2021’s sales will not eclipse the previous year’s windfall, the industry does look poised to exceed 300,000 units for the second consecutive year, a feat that reflects the unyielding endurance of manufacturers, the continued popularity of boating and a steady rebalancing of the supply chain.

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