Boat sales hit key milestone in 2012

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Recreational boat sales topped 200,000 last year for the first time in three years, marking a milestone in the industry’s continued recovery from the Great Recession.

With all 50 states reporting, Statistical Surveys Inc. said today that 2012 sales industrywide totaled 202,403 boats, an increase of 9.6 percent from 184,627 a year earlier. The industry last topped 200,000 in 2009, when 209,215 were sold.

“I think it is significant for the industry to eclipse 200,000 boats,” said Ryan Kloppe, national marine sales manager at Statistical Surveys. “It is a nice plateau to reach.”

For the year, sales in the main powerboat segments gained 11.4 percent to 125,544, and leading those segments were two aluminum categories, fishing boats and pontoons, and 11- to 40-foot outboard fiberglass boats. Fishing boat sales rose 9.3 percent for the year to 37,623, pontoon boat sales climbed 20.4 percent to 33,798 and sales of 11- to 40-foot fiberglass outboards gained 13.1 percent to 36,222.

Two segments that lagged throughout the year — 31- to 40-foot cruisers and 41- to 62-foot yachts — ended 2012 with lower sales than in 2011, but the declines were in the low single digits as the Coast Guard began to catch up on sales of documented vessels.

Cruiser sales totaled 1,173 for the year, a drop of 2.4 percent, and sales of 41-to 62-foot yachts fell 1.2 percent to 730.

Coast Guard data are complete through November in Statistical Surveys’ report. Throughout the year, data entry delays at the Coast Guard had been creating an incomplete report for boats larger than 31 feet and understating the cruiser and yacht markets.

“The gap closed a little on those numbers,” Kloppe said.

Statistical Surveys said fourth-quarter sales rose 11.1 percent in the main powerboat segments to 11,323 boats and industrywide sales rose 9.9 percent to 16,503.

Kloppe said strong results from fall boat shows were a significant factor in the fourth-quarter gains, and he said 2013 shows are probably continuing to boost sales totals.

For the quarter, Florida led the country in sales of fiberglass boats with 2,717 and 1,054 were sold in Texas. California sold 465 and North Carolina sold 427.

The top states for aluminum boat sales for the quarter were Texas with 734, Louisiana with 703, Florida with 678 and Arizona with 365.

Florida led the nation in total sales for the quarter, at 3,395 boats. There were 1,788 boats sold in Texas, 958 in Louisiana and 731 in California.

Click here for 2012 full-year and fourth-quarter boat sales.

— Jack Atzinger