A positive January spurs optimism

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New powerboat registrations in January were up 2.9 percent in the main segments over January 2017, which had an increase of 9.5 percent over 2016, according to Statistical Surveys Inc. Registrations of outboard-powered fiberglass boats were up 4.5 percent to 1,917 units versus 1,834 last year; and that rise was on top of a 6 percent increase last year, says SSI director of sales Ryan Kloppe.

Though January is typically among the three slowest months of the year, the upward trend is noteworthy, Kloppe says.

“There were a lot of positive remarks and attitudes at the [winter] shows,” Kloppe says. “I think you’re seeing some of the numbers from the shows looking positive, attendance-wise and sales-wise.”

The yacht and cruiser market saw the largest increases last month. The 31- to 40-foot segment rose 28.2 percent, from 39 to 50 units, and the 41- to 65-foot segment grew 64.7 percent, from 34 to 56 units.

Semi-custom and custom yachts over 66 feet grew 50 percent, from six to nine units.

“Those big boats obviously had a great month,” Kloppe says. “We’re only talking 100-plus units, but those boats mean big dollars.”

Those ranges have been selling well for Groupe Beneteau brands, says Beneteau America president George Armendariz.

“The larger-boat segment is smaller in terms of units, so it’s a little more fragile, but we’re not yet seeing signs of softness,” Armendariz says. “I think we’re seeing our bigger product gain some traction — we’re seeing coupes gain traction, seeing Swift Trawlers gain some traction in that marketplace. It’s a small segment, but it’s been very good for us.”

There has been pent-up demand in larger-boat sales, says Carver and Marquis president and CEO Rob Parmentier.

“We did have some really good early shows,” Parmentier says. “I think there has been huge euphoria over the tax cuts. That was the main reason they felt comfortable enough to pull the trigger. Our Carver business is up. We sold a Marquis 72 in Miami, we’re happy with that; but we’re not seeing the quantity of customers in that category like we did a couple years ago. The cruisers and sport yachts are getting activity. Those did well at the Detroit, Chicago and New York shows.”

Even the sterndrive segment, which declined 14.2 percent in the 14- to 30-foot range, saw growth on the larger side, with registration of sterndrives in the 25- to 40-foot range up 5 percent in January versus last year, Kloppe says.

People who traditionally bought sterndrive-powered runabouts less than 25 feet long continued the migration to outboard power: Outboard-powered runabouts were up 25 percent.

“That’s where it’s going,” Kloppe says. “If I’m going to buy a 20-foot boat, usually now I’m buying the outboard version.”

Aluminum fishing boat registrations were up 3.6 percent, from 964 to 999 units. Pontoons saw an 8.5-percent decline in registrations, which Kloppe attributed to cold weather in some traditionally warm markets and the fact that boaters in Michigan — the largest pontoon market in the country — usually do not buy in January.

The industry overall grew 2.6 percent, with an 82.4-percent gain in electric boats, from 17 to 31 units.

Sailboat registrations were up 28.8 percent, from 59 to 76 units, and personal watercraft grew half a point, from 815 to 819 units.

This article originally appeared in the April 2018 issue.


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