Sales rebound is limited to a few states

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Sales of new fiberglass boats slumped overall in April as retail activity slowed in many parts of the country, but some states reported growth in certain market segments.

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Figures from 29 early-reporting states that represent about 67 percent of the U.S. market showed that sales of all fiberglass boats, including personal watercraft, fell 14.2 percent, compared with April 2010.

Sales in the popular 14- to 30-foot category dropped 11.4 percent from the same month a year earlier. Delaware reported a gain of 15.8 percent and West Virginia reported an increase of 10.5 percent. Four other states, including New Jersey at 9.5 percent, listed single-digit increases.

The aluminum market had single-digit declines in the fishing (8.7 percent) and pontoon (6.6 percent) segments, compared with April 2010. Texas had significant growth in both, reporting a 20.5 percent increase in pontoon boat sales and a 7.2 percent gain in fishing boat sales. On the pontoon side, Florida and South Carolina were the growth leaders after Texas.

Sales of aluminum boats continue to fare better than the industry’s core 14- to 30-foot segment for the year to date.

Sales of personal watercraft fell 29.4 percent for the month. Only Montana, Rhode Island and South Dakota reported sales gains as all of the higher-volume states listed declines.

In other categories, sales of sailboats fell 32.1 percent, ski boat sales dropped 21.3 percent and jet boat sales slipped 13.7 percent. Deckboats posted the smallest decline, falling 1.8 percent.

Warmer summer weather and lower gasoline prices as the season moves forward could offset April’s weak results. The month represents 12 to 13 percent of total annual retail volume on a calendar-year basis.

Aarn D. Rosen is national marine sales manager for Statistical Surveys of Grand Rapids, Mich.

This article originally appeared in the July 2011 issue.

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