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Returning to Earth?

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Preliminary data from Statistical Surveys showed that May experienced a slight glitch in the torrid pace of new-boat registrations.

Total industry registrations, representing 25 states or approximately 47 percent of the U.S. boating market, were down 9.2 percent for the month, compared with last year, but were up 2.3 percent in the main powerboat categories.

Contributing to the decline could be the extremely low inventory levels that have plagued dealers since the selling spree began, or that it’s nearly impossible to use last year’s scorching numbers as a baseline for comparison.

“It’s both,” said Ryan Kloppe, sales director with Statistical Surveys, a Michigan firm that tracks new-boat registrations. “You have tough comparables and zero inventory.”

The numbers are likely to rise as data come in from the remaining states.

On a year-to-year basis, overall registrations were up 38 percent in the main powerboat categories and 37 percent in all segments, with 119,157 boats sold.

Several categories that had been putting up solid numbers were down for the month. PWC sales totaled 6,299 units (from 8,270), a 24 percent decline. Bowriders and deckboats posted a 9.3 percent loss for the month (577 units from 636), and jetboats were down 50 percent, with sales of 329 units (from 641).

Numbers for the year, however, continue to show impressive gains. PWC sales are at 29,245 units for 2021, up 46 percent; bowriders and deckboats are up 40 percent (to 3,480 from 2,487); and jetboats had a more modest gain of 14 percent, with 2,207 units sold (from 1,944).

Larger boats had a strong May. Sales in the 41- to 65-foot segment spiked 290 percent (to 39 from 10), and sales of boats larger than 66 feet totaled 16 units (from three), up 433 percent for the month; the latter category is up 44 percent for the year.

Sailboats also saw significant gains, with more than double the sales recorded in May 2020 at 67 units (from 32). The segment is up 29 percent (to 483 from 375) in a year-over-year comparison.

Electric-boat registrations were down 25 percent for the month (to 21 from 28) but are up 99 percent for the year. With more players entering this segment, including Pure Watercraft, Vision Marine Technologies, X Shore and Brunswick Corp., continued growth is expected.

On a state-by-state basis, the top four states — from No. 1 Florida to No. 4 Georgia — posted net losses for the month. Florida’s 3,945 registrations (from 6,471) were a decline of 40 percent.

No. 5 California, with 1,470 registrations for the month (from 709), had the biggest jump of the top 10 states, up 107 percent.

“Boating is in demand, and retail unit sales remain elevated coming off 2020’s record year, even as month-to-month sales momentum moderates as a result of continued supply shortages limiting dealers’ ability to restock inventory,” Vicky Yu, director of business intelligence at the National Marine Manufacturers Association, told Soundings Trade Only. “Manufacturers are working around the clock to replenish inventory levels and have shipments currently trending around 10 percent below 2019 levels — remarkable given the significant supply-chain constraints they are facing but challenging to meet today’s heightened demand.”

Robust sales are expected to continue, with builders and dealers announcing growth and acquisitions. In late June, Contender Boats added a 100,000 square-foot facility, doubling its output capacity. Several other builders — including Galeon, Cutwater, Limestone and Ranger Tugs — expanded their dealer bases. And MarineMax and OneWater Marine continued to make acquisitions.

What we’re seeing is the “common theme for the next several months,” Kloppe said. “Every boat off the line is sold already.”

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