Recreational boating weathered a rough July as sales fell across most major industry categories.
Even the normally reliable aluminum fishing and outboard fiberglass segments struggled as sales fell 7 percent in the main powerboat segments to 12,459 boats and 5.7 percent industrywide to 23,296, from the same month last year in 28 early-reporting states that represent about 64 percent of the U.S. market, Statistical Surveys said today.
Down in January, but up in February and especially in March — when sales rose 20 percent industrywide in the early-reporting states — the industry followed those performances with flat sales in April, marginally better results in May and a strong June ahead of July’s disappointing numbers.
Florida led the nation in July, as it does during most months, but the 3,176 boats sold there were 368 fewer than the 3,544 recorded in the same month last year. Texas was second at 3,036, down 553 from 3,589 in 2015.
Sales were higher in Michigan, the third-ranking state at 2,466, up 155 from 2,311, but they were lower in New York, (1,509, down 62 from 1,571). California, the fifth-ranked state, had higher sales — 1,366, up 167 from 1,199.
Completing the top 10 were North Carolina (1,355, down from 1,423); Tennessee (1,194, up from 945), South Carolina, (1,158, down from 1,319); Alabama (995, up from 985); and New Jersey (896, up from 794).
Statistical Surveys sales director Ryan Kloppe said it was difficult to pinpoint a reason sales have been so choppy, but a longer selling season could have been a factor.
“The selling season started earlier this year,” he said, causing more sales to be recorded in the late winter and early spring than usual.
“Florida had phenomenal sales growth all of last year,” he added. “You can’t be up by double digits every month.”
Kloppe does not believe the July results indicate the industry is headed for a slump.
“I don’t think there’s anything to worry about,” he said. “We’re on pace for a positive sales year.”
Through July, sales in the main segments are up 3.7 percent in the early-reporting states at 109,719 and up 3.5 percent industrywide at 169,157. Those figures are down from a pace of 6.3 percent growth in the main segments and 5.7 percent industrywide through June.
Timothy Conder, a senior analyst at Wells Fargo, said in a note after the results were released that he believes “the industry fundamentals remain solidly intact,” including consumers’ willingness and ability to buy boats.
Conder, who previously said he was expecting “flattish” July sales, said the July results do not suggest “a broad industry rollover” because the decline was broad-based and historically small boats lead significant upward and downward turns. Conder said small-boat sales were up 9.5 percent in June.
Conder also took note of sales declines in key states Florida, Texas and New York, saying Florida and Texas had “difficult comparisons” with the sales they recorded in July of last year. Many lakes reopened in Texas this year after a multi-year drought and rains in May and June refilled them, stimulating boat sales in those months, he said.
Conder said the decline in New York sales could be attributable to a lack of inventory, and he noted that July through mid-August is the seasonal trough in inventory for the industry.
All of the industry’s high-volume categories had poorer results in July, although sales in the aluminum pontoon segment were nearly flat, falling by just 22, or 0.5 percent, to 4,122. Sales of aluminum fishing boats fell 14 percent to 2,348 and sales of fiberglass outboards dropped 6.6 percent to 3,992.
Sales of personal watercraft dropped 3 percent to 8,443.
Jetboat sales were precisely flat at 570 and sales of ski and wake boats were virtually flat, rising by one to 783.
Sales of 14- to 30-foot inboard and sterndrive boats, which have struggled since the Great Recession ended but have showed signs of a comeback in recent months, fell 18.1 percent to 1,042.
The Coast Guard was up to date in its reports on documented vessels, providing complete figures in the bigger-boat categories. Sales of 31- to 40-foot cruisers fell by seven to 107. Sales of 41- to 65-foot yachts fell by 16 to 51, but sales of 66-foot and larger semicustom and custom yachts rose by three to 14.
Sailboat sales fell by 51, or 21.6 percent, to 185.