Sales slump hits most segments in October

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Sales of aluminum pontoon boats slumped in October for the first time since April amid a broad decline in boat sales during what is traditionally a low-volume month in the industry.

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Sales of pontoon boats fell 11.5 percent, to 362 boats, and sales of aluminum fishing boats — another consistently strong category this year — fell 8.3 percent, to 911 boats, according to figures compiled by Aarn Rosen, national marine sales manager at Statistical Surveys Inc.

Total industry sales fell 12 percent in October, to 4,425 boats, and the main powerboat segments, comprising the two aluminum categories and fiberglass boats in five segments that range from 11 to 99 feet, produced only 3,018 sales, 10.4 percent fewer than in October 2010.

“The only redeeming value is that it’s a low-volume month,” Rosen said, noting that October traditionally produces only about 3.5 to 4.5 percent of the industry’s sales for the year. “The double-digit declines are in low-volume segments” for the time of year, he said, and sales in the higher-volume 11- to 40-foot outboard fiberglass segment were down only 4.4 percent for October. Sales in that category were up 1.9 percent, to 22,037 boats, for the year through October.

The October sales information is based on registration data from 29 early-reporting states, or about 63 percent of the national market. Reports of sales of documented vessels were incomplete because of data entry delays at the Coast Guard. The Documented Vessels file was complete only through Aug. 19, Rosen said, which means sales of boats 31 feet or larger have been significantly underreported.

For the year through October, sales in the main powerboat segments were up 1.9 percent, at 72,347 boats, and total industry sales were down just 2 percent, at 115,220 boats. Pontoon boat sales were up 10.7 percent, at 14,938 boats, and sales of aluminum fishing boats were up 4.7 percent, at 18,345 boats.

Sales of all fiberglass boats, including personal watercraft, fell 18.5 percent in October, from 3,014 units to 2,456, and sales in the core 14- to 30-foot segment fell 24.6 percent, to 404 boats. For the year through October, sales in the 14- to 30-foot category were 7.8 percent lower, at 14,946 boats.

Sales of personal watercraft fell 19.8 percent, to 474 units, in October. For the year, sales in the category were 9.1 percent lower, at 23,041 units.

Sales slumped in nearly all categories in October, but in most cases the declines were far sharper for the month than they were for the year to date. For example, sales of 31- to 40-foot cruisers fell 20.3 percent, to 59 boats, but sales for the year were 7.4 percent lower, at 1,092 boats.

Sales of 41- to 62-foot yachts were down 20.4 percent, to 39 boats, in October, but for the year sales in the category were 1.8 percent higher, at 861 boats.

The sailboat segment was the only one that showed sales gains for the month and year. Sales were up 7.9 percent, to 82 boats, in October, and up 4.6 percent, to 1,538 boats, through October.

Sales of jetboats were down 25.7 percent for the month, to 55 boats, but were 5 percent lower for the year, at 2,226 boats. Sales of ski boats were 29.7 percent lower for the month, at 97 boats, but were 5.8 percent lower for the year, at 3,026 boats.

This article orginally appeared in the January 2012 issue.

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