Last winter, reports in January of rising sales of pontoon boats and small to midsize outboard fiberglass boats were a pleasant surprise in the U.S. boatbuilding industry.
Such results since have become the norm, and sales figures that Statistical Surveys Inc. compiled for January this year show that the industry is continuing to build on the momentum it created last year.
January sales in the main powerboat segments, which include two aluminum groups and five categories of fiberglass boats, rose by 374, or 14.7 percent, to 2,910, in 29 early reporting states, from 2,536 in the same month a year earlier. Industrywide sales rose by 487, or 12.8 percent, to 4,287.
“2013 is off to a positive start, a good kickoff,” says Ryan Kloppe, national marine sales manager at Statistical Surveys. “It’s a nice, moderate increase.”
Kloppe is confident that the data accurately portray the state of the industry, even though January is traditionally the second-lowest sales month for boats. It typically produces just 2.6 to 3.5 percent of the industry’s annual retail activity.
The states in Statistical Surveys’ January report represent 64 percent of the national market.
Kloppe says dealers who spoke with him at the Miami International Boat Show in February “feel they’re in a good position. I saw ‘sold’ stickers on boats throughout the show, which was good to see.”
The aluminum pontoon category had the highest sales increase within the main powerboat segments on a percentage basis in January, just as it did a year earlier. Group sales rose by 75 boats, or 28.1 percent, to 342, from 267 a year earlier. Sales in the 11- to 40-foot outboard fiberglass category rose by 288 boats, or 26.1 percent, to 1,392.
Sales of aluminum fishing boats, a consistently strong performer in 2012, rose 2.3 percent to 901.
Sales in the 14- to 30-foot inboard and sterndrive fiberglass category rose 8.2 percent, to 197, reversing the results of a year earlier, when sales fell 9 percent.
Sales of high-dollar 63- to 99-foot yachts rose by three to 14 in January and results in other segments continued a pattern they set last year. Sales of 31- to 40-foot cruisers fell by six boats to 42 in January, and sales of 41-to 62-foot yachts dropped by 21 to 22.
“As bad as those numbers look, they’ll look a little better when the Coast Guard catches up,” Kloppe says.
Sales of documented vessels were complete only through October because of data entry delays at the Coast Guard, creating an incomplete report for boats larger than 31 feet and understating the cruiser and yacht markets.
Sales of personal watercraft rose by 96 units in January to 465 and sales of ski boats rose by 28 to 98. Sales of jetboats fell by six to 54.
Sailboat sales were virtually flat at 102.
This article originally appeared in the April 2013 issue.