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Supply-Chain Relief?

Registrations increase for yacht and jetboat categories, suggesting that boatbuilders are catching up on backlogs
Screen Shot 2022-08-10 at 10.22.16 AM

After months of declines in nationwide new-boat registrations, some vessel categories showed signs of perking up in June.

Registrations of certain classes of yachts and jetboats increased in June compared with totals in June 2021, according to monthly data compiled by Statistical Surveys, a Michigan firm that tracks new-boat registrations.

Before June, only the sailboat category had regularly seen registration increases in the first half of the year. In June, yachts and custom yachts rebounded, by 27.7 percent and 18.2 percent, respectively, from the year-earlier monthly comparison. Jetboat registrations were up 15.3 percent. The sail category also continued its positive momentum, gaining 12.1 percent year-over-year.

David MacGregor, an analyst at Longbow Research, says some of the higher totals may be a result of boatbuilders’ supply-chain challenges easing somewhat in the second quarter. That may result in wait times narrowing a bit at the retail level, compared with the first quarter of 2022.

“Inventories remain significantly depleted, and lead times remain extended but are improving, with lead times for smaller boats at about two to four months on average, while larger boats remain six-plus months out,” MacGregor says in a research note.

Still, 11 of the 15 boat categories that Statistical Surveys tracks had lower registration numbers in June compared with a year earlier. Among vessel types with at least 30 units registered, the steepest declines were in electric boats (down 36.4 percent), cruisers (down 27.4 percent) and personal watercraft (down 23.6 percent). Pontoon and inshore/offshore fiberglass outboards almost broke even, as each was down less than 1 percent.

The industry total declined 10.9 percent to 28,147 registrations in June. The main powerboat segment outperformed, down just 5 percent. The June numbers from Statistical Surveys included data from 30 states, representing approximately two-thirds of the U.S. boat market.

MacGregor noted that the “negative sales impact from lack of inventory has been less pronounced compared to the prior few quarters” but that inventories must still be considered very low compared with historic norms. U.S. consumers are starting to become concerned about the economic downturn’s impact on their pocketbook, and would-be boat buyers don’t find much to see at the retailers anyway.

“Lead generations and foot traffic into stores have moderated in the quarter,” MacGregor says. “Dealers attributed the slower foot traffic to a lack of boats available on display at stores, rising inflation, higher interest rates, economic uncertainty and higher gas prices.”

Although boat inventories broadly have not yet recovered, MacGregor says retailers are already taking steps to avoid possessing too much unsold stock as 2023 approaches. “Some dealers that we spoke with are planning to cut back on their ordering patterns for smaller boats with shorter lead times over the coming months so that they do not get stuck with excess inventory heading into the winter months,” MacGregor says.

He wrote that boat inventories are expected to normalize as early as the first half of 2023, compared with previous projections that it would not happen until the second half of next year. 

This article was originally published in the September 2022 issue.

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