Boat sales hold onto gains in 3Q


What a difference a year makes.

Third-quarter U.S. recreational boat sales reflect a previously reported late-summer slowdown, but 12-month rolling sales figures show how strongly the industry rebounded in the first half of this year after stabilizing as 2011 ended.

Third-quarter 2012 sales rose just 2.3 percent in the main powerboat segments, to 31,581 boats, and declined by 0.3 percent industrywide, to 54,115, as sales in more than half of the market’s categories declined, according to figures provided by Statistical Surveys Inc.

Outboard-powered fiberglass boats, aluminum pontoons, jetboats, electric boats and custom-built yachts showed sales gains for the quarter.

Sales of aluminum fishing boats were nearly flat, declining by six boats, or 0.1 percent, and skiboat sales were even with the quarter a year earlier.

The recovery the industry has enjoyed this year comes into focus in 12-month rolling figures from the Michigan-based market data provider — 10.2 percent year-over-year growth in the main segments, to 121,937 boats, and an 8.3 percent gain industrywide, to 196,880, for the period through Sept. 30.

The third-quarter and 12-month figures are for 48 states and represent 99 percent of the U.S. market. Statistical Surveys’ monthly reports are compiled from data provided by early reporting states that typically comprise less of the market.

Statistical Surveys national marine sales manager Ryan Kloppe said most of the growth the industry has shown occurred in the first half of this year after a steady performance in the second half of 2011.

Kloppe said 80 percent of the states showed at least some sales growth in the third quarter this year. “That’s a pretty significant number,” he said.

He said Texas and Florida were the leaders in the fiberglass market and that Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin led in sales of aluminum fishing boats and pontoons.

Congress and President Obama remain in talks designed to keep the U.S. economy from avoiding the automatic tax increases and spending cuts known as the “fiscal cliff.” Unless the economy suffers a shock, “there’s no reason to expect that [the marine industry’s rebound] can’t continue,” Kloppe said.

Sales of pontoon boats rose 9.1 percent in the third quarter this year, to 8,971, but they are up 20 percent to 32,899 for the 12-month period that ended Sept. 30. Sales of 11- to 40-foot outboard fiberglass boats were up 6.9 percent to 9,020 for the quarter, but they are up 11.2 percent for the 12-month period to 35,025.

Sales of jetboats rose 25.4 percent for the quarter to 1,274, but they are up 33.4 percent for the 12-month period to 4,336. The strength of the 12-month period can be seen even in smaller categories such as sailboats. Sales in that segment were down 10.1 percent to 594 for the quarter, but were up 3.2 percent to 2,480 for the 12-month period.

Click here for third-quarter and 12-month rolling figures.

— Jack Atzinger