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Small-boat sales keep rally going in May

Smaller boats played a sizable role in May as the recreational boating industry continued to rebound, posting another double-digit sales gain.

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Pontoon boats, jet boats and PWC sold especially well, helping to lift sales industrywide by 16.5 percent, to 16,859 boats, from the same month a year earlier, according to figures compiled by Aarn Rosen, national sales manager at Statistical Surveys Inc.

Sales of pontoons rose 31.9 percent to 3,249, sales of jet boats were up 35.5 percent to 469, and sales of PWC climbed 21.3 percent to 3,735.

Through May, industrywide sales were up 17.3 percent to 49,548 boats. Pontoon sales were up 32.1 percent to 7,433 boats, jet boat sales were up 30.6 percent to 1,181, and PWC sales were up 17.6 percent to 8,460 units.

“That end of the market is certainly showing positive reinforcement,” Rosen says. “The pontoon market is just on fire. The builders say they’re selling both ends of the spectrum” — entry-level and high-end models.

Sales among larger and higher-priced cruisers and yachts fell in May by margins ranging from 15.9 to 31.3 percent, but overall the industry’s main powerboat segments — seven categories of aluminum and fiberglass boats — produced 10,231 sales, 16.8 percent more than they did in May 2011.

Through May, main-segment sales were up 17.7 percent to 31,627 boats. For the year to date, cruiser and yacht sales are up by margins ranging from 5.2 to 22.2 percent.

There was a familiar caveat to the cruiser and yacht data. Reports of sales of documented vessels were complete only through April 25 because of data entry delays at the Coast Guard, Rosen says, which means sales totals for boats 30 feet and larger were significantly understated.

“The Coast Guard is still behind, so you’re not seeing the volume in those categories,” but the big-boat market is not suffering, Rosen says.

Sales in the high-volume 11- to 40-foot outboard fiberglass segment rose 16.1 percent in May, to 3,071 boats, and for the year to date they were up 17.3 percent to 10,997 boats.

Sales in the core 14- to 30-foot fiberglass category rose 9.2 percent to 1,436 boats, but they were up a smaller 3 percent, to 3,827 boats, through May.

Sales of aluminum fishing boats, which along with pontoons have helped to lead an industry recovery, rose 8.1 percent to 2,331. Through May, sales in the category rose 15.5 percent to 8,685 boats.

Sailboat sales fell 7.3 percent, to 217, but they remained 5.8 percent ahead for the year at 716 boats.

The data for May were based on information from 23 early reporting states that comprise about 55 percent of the U.S. boat market. May sales represent 15.5 to 16.5 percent of the year’s retail activity.

This article originally appeared in the August 2012 issue.

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