Boat sales drop in October

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Sales of aluminum fishing and pontoon boats sagged in October as nearly all segments of the U.S. boating market showed declines from a year earlier.

Sales of fishing boats fell 8.3 percent, to 911 boats, and sales of pontoon boats fell 11.5 percent, to 362 boats, according to figures compiled by Aarn Rosen, national marine sales manager at Statistical Surveys Inc. Sales in both categories had been consistently higher in recent months and they buoyed the market, which has suffered from slumping fiberglass sales.

The sailboat segment was the only one that showed improvement in October. Sailboat sales rose from 76 boats in October 2010 to 82 this year, a gain of 7.9 percent.

The sales information is based on registration data from 29 early-reporting states, or about 63 percent of the nation’s boat market. Reports of sales of documented vessels were incomplete because of data entry delays at the Coast Guard.

The Coast Guard’s Documented Vessels File is complete only through Aug. 19, Rosen said, which means sales of boats 31 feet or larger have been significantly underreported.

Total industry sales fell 12 percent for October, to 4,425 boats, and the main powerboat segments, comprising aluminum pontoon and fishing boats, and fiberglass boats in five segments that range from 11 to 99 feet, produced only 3,018 sales, 10.4 percent fewer than in October 2010.

However, Rosen said October sales represent only about 3.5 to 4.5 percent of the industry’s retail activity for the year.

“The only redeeming value is that it’s a low-volume month. The double-digit declines are in low-volume segments” for the time of year, he said. Sales in the higher-volume 11- to 40-foot outboard fiberglass segment were down only 4.4 percent for the month, he noted, a figure more in line with the way the industry has performed this year.

Sales of all fiberglass boats, including personal watercraft, fell 18.5 percent for the month, from 3,014 units to 2,456, and sales in the core 14- to 30-foot segment fell 24.6 percent, to 404 boats. Sales of personal watercraft fell 19.8 percent, to 474 units.

Sales of jet boats fell 25.7 percent in October, to 55, and sales of ski boats fell 29.7 percent, to 97.

Click here to see sales figures across all industry categories.

— Jack Atzinger

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