The fiberglass new-boat market fell 9.5 percent overall in March, but sales in the popular 14- to 30-foot segment showed double-digit gains in five Southern states.
Spring traditionally arrives sooner in that region, and boaters in Arkansas, Florida, Tennessee, South Carolina and Mississippi stepped up their purchases. Sales increases ranged from 20.6 percent in Arkansas to 10 percent in Mississippi.
However, the market for small to midsize fiberglass boats continued to contract in the higher-volume states of Louisiana and Texas, where sales declined 11.6 percent and 7.9 percent, respectively.
The figures on which this report is based reflect sales in 31 early-reporting states that make up 69 percent of the national market.
The rate of decline in the overall fiberglass segment matched the market’s performance for the month a year earlier. Sales in the 14- to 30-foot segment fell 6.2 percent across the early reporting states.
Sales of outboard-powered aluminum fishing boats rose 2.3 percent for the month, and sales of outboard pontoon boats rose 6.9 percent.
Florida, Arkansas and Tennessee dominated growth in the aluminum segments in March. Florida and the Mid-
Atlantic states are showing significant growth in pontoon sales.
Strength in Florida in every segment of the market adds weight to the forecast of a slow recovery for the industry. Anecdotal information from boatbuilders and dealers indicates that volatile and colder-than-normal early spring weather was keeping potential buyers at home.
Sales of personal watercraft fell 13 percent for the month, compared with a decline of 10.5 percent in March 2010. Florida, Michigan, South Carolina and California reported growth, but most states continued to show double-digit declines.
Sales of jetboats rose 11.9 percent for the month in the early reporting states; the sailboat and ski boat categories fell 10.3 percent and 7.9 percent, respectively.
This article originally appeared in the June 2011 issue.