December boat sales were down 12.2 percent in the main powerboat categories, dropping more than 16 percent in fiberglass outboard and 9 percent in aluminum fishing categories.
Preliminary data from Statistical Surveys Inc. taken from 29 states represents almost 56 percent of the industry overall.
“It’s a slowdown,” SSI sales director Ryan Kloppe told Trade Only Today. “We were only up 3 percent last December, so it’s not a tough comparable. There’s a lot of uncertainty right now, and when you’re dealing with winter months, a little variation can make a big difference in the numbers.”
Florida and Texas were down for the month, which led to the overall decrease.
Coast Guard data was incomplete due to the lingering government shut-down, which likely affected larger boat numbers somewhat, but Kloppe said it wasn’t a significant number of boats.
The industry was still poised to grow between 3 and 4 percent in 2018; year-to-date sales were up 3.4 percent in the main categories and 3.2 percent overall.
Growth was seen in pontoons (up 4.2 percent, tow boats (up 22.7 percent) and PWC (up 10.9 percent) — “the same segments that have been carrying the industry,” said Kloppe.
“We’re still on target for seven straight years of growth,” said Kloppe. “Hopefully this is just a blip and 2019 starts off strong.”
B. Riley analyst Eric Wold said he was optimistic about the industry despite lackluster registration data because manufacturers have continued to experience strong demand for core segments. Promotions remain muted, inventory levels seem healthy, and boat buyers continue to move up in average selling price of boats and engines, Wold said.
“We are hosting a number of meetings with recreational marine management teams next Thursday and Friday around the New York Boat Show and expect to come away with a continued optimistic view for the group heading into this year's selling season,” wrote Wold.