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The Usual Suspects

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1_BTN_Sept 2021

With demand well-outpacing supply, boat sales during the last several months have entered a predictable pattern.

Customer demand has remained steady, but the kinks in the global supply chain have the industry estimating inventory replenishment cycles to last well into next year, perhaps into late 2023.

“Raw demand is tremendously strong. What we’re really seeing is constrained supply,” Brunswick Corp. CEO David Foulkes told CNBC’s Jim Kramer on Mad Money when Brunswick posted its fifth consecutive record quarter. “Even though we’re increasing capacity … it’s probably going to be three years before we really get field inventory levels back to where they should be.”

The shortage of product is reflected in the data. Preliminary numbers from Statistical Surveys, a Michigan firm that tracks new-boat registrations, confirms that September has continued the pattern of constricted sales for the fifth consecutive month.

Total registrations, representing 35 states or about 75 percent of the U.S. boating market, were down 17 percent for the month, with the main powerboat segments dropping 26 percent compared with September 2020.

On a year-to-year basis, overall registrations in the most popular boating categories are off 8.4 percent, with total industry registrations at 244,504, a decrease of 7.6 percent (from 264,601) from last year.

The main powerboat segments posted double-digit losses for the month. Even perennial category leaders had poor showings. Pontoon sales were down 28 percent for the month (to 2,375 from 3,312), and outboard boats decreased 21 percent for the month, with 3,315 units (from 4,179).

Total industry registrations followed the same pattern, although PWC registrations were up 33 percent (to 3,607 from 2,716). With 68,692 units sold, the category is off by just 1 percent from 2020.

The numbers during the course of the year reveal some encouraging news.

Boats larger than 66 feet continue to have a solid showing, with 15.7 percent growth (to 125 from 108). Sailboats surpassed total 2020 sales through September, with a 23 percent gain to 1,142 boats. Electric-boat registrations were down for the month (to 8 from 25) but are up 35 percent for the year. And houseboats have seen 35 percent growth for the year, with 54 units.

On a state-by-state basis, No. 1 Florida saw registrations decrease 15 percent, with 2,242 boats sold (from 2,889). No. 2 Texas posted a steeper decline at 31 percent (to 1,604 from 2,328). However, three of the top 10 states posted small net gains for the month: No. 7 South Carolina, No. 8 Washington and No. 9 New Jersey.

The comparisons to last year’s numbers are out of reach, and this year’s registrations will fall short of 2020.

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