You Can’t Always Get What You Want

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BTN_Soundings July 2021

The buyers are here. Lamentably, their boats are not (quite).

Preliminary data from Statistical Surveys, a Michigan firm that tracks new-boat registrations, showed July to be the third consecutive month of slowed sales.

Ongoing supply-chain problems and a shortage of nearly everything — from skilled labor and foam and resin to engines and oil filters — continued to interfere with bursting order books and delivery of vessels to an eager audience looking to escape to the water.

Sales numbers from July 2020 are nearly impossible to top, with that month being the second-highest single month of new boat sales, seasonally adjusted, in the past 13 years. Even so, this past July’s total industry registrations, representing 35 states or about 73 percent of the U.S. boating market, were down 43 percent for the month — an eyebrow-raising 49 percent in the main powerboat categories.

Not one category was spared from the scythe. All the main powerboat segments slashed in the double digits, with the most popular category, pontoon boats, deep-sixing 52.4 percent for the month, moving 4,754 units (from 9,987).

Another chart-topper, outboard boats, were down 42 percent for July with sales of 4,550 boats (from 7,792).

On a year-to-year basis, overall registrations were still up — but just 0.4 percent — in the main powerboat segment, with total industry numbers showing a 1.4 percent drop from 2020, with 196,977 boats sold.

A closer look at the numbers over the course of the year provides a rosier outlook: Pontoon sales are up 3.4 percent to 44,253 units for 2021, and outboard vessels show only a 0.3 percent decrease — just 123 units — for the year (to 38,263 from 38,386).

Larger boats are having a strong 2021. Sales of boats larger than 66 feet totaled 98 units (from 79), up 24 percent for the year. Just behind in LOA, sales in the 41- to 65-foot segment are off only 0.5 percent — or just two boats— from 2020 (to 398 from 400).

Sailboats also continued a solid showing: The segment is up 30 percent (to 883 from 677) in a year-over-year comparison.

Perhaps as result of more companies embracing a work-from-anywhere ethos, houseboat sales continue to outpace last year’s numbers with 45 total sales (from 34), a gain of 32 percent.

And electric-boat registrations continue to rise. With 188 units moved in 2021, sales are up 45 on a year-over-year basis.

On a state-by-state basis, all 35 states posted net losses for the month. In the top 10, No. 1 Florida’s 3,175 registrations (from 5,441) declined by 42 percent, with No. 2 Texas also posting a sizable drop — 55 percent — with 2,324 registrations for the month (from 5,128). Rounding out the top 10 was California, with 898 registrations (from 2043), down 56 percent.

With many builders looking well into the future to replenish pipelines, dealers continuing to presell every 2022 model year slated to arrive, and the supply chain issues not set to self-correct, the shortage of boats looks to remain. 

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