Boat sales in 3Q were highest since 2008

The industry recorded the highest sales for that quarter since 2008, just before the Great Recession.
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Recreational boat sales rose less than 1 percent in the third quarter, but that was enough for the industry to record the highest sales for that quarter since 2008, just before the Great Recession.

Sales rose 1.1 percent in the main powerboat segments to 43,494 and 0.8 percent industrywide to 73,055 in 47 states that represent 97 percent of the U.S. boating market, Statistical Surveys said today.

“It’s slight growth,” said Statistical Surveys sales director Ryan Kloppe, but he said it’s growth nonetheless and builds on gains from previous years. “We’re still on pace for a 5 to 6 percent increase this year.”

The industry sold 72,496 boats in the quarter last year. The third quarter is typically the second-busiest of the year.

In 2008 the industry sold 80,099 boats in the quarter, but once the recession took hold it sold just 64,301 in 2009. Sales then fell into the 50,000s for three years before rising to 61,174 in 2013 and they have continued to climb at a moderate pace ever since.

The industry’s uneven performance in the quarter was characteristic of the way 2016 has gone in the boating business. Sales were down 5.7 percent industrywide in July, but were up 11.8 percent in August. Sales rose again in September, but only 1.6 percent.

Although overall third-quarter sales barely rose, some categories continued to show strong growth.

“There were some really good sales figures in there,” Kloppe said.

Sales of ski and wake boats rose 12.8 percent to 2,666 and sales of 31- to 40-foot cruisers rose by 11.6 percent to 403.

Kloppe said the ski and wake boat segment has been showing double-digit growth for about two years.

Among the high-volume categories in the main segments, the gains were small. Sales of 11-50-foot outboard fiberglass boats rose 1.7 percent to 12,812 and sales of aluminum pontoon boats rose just 2.8 percent to 12,868.

Sales of aluminum fishing boats were nearly flat, falling by 15 to 11,237.

PWC sales climbed 2.2 percent to 21,626. Jetboat sales rose 2.6 percent to 1,500.

Florida led all states in third-quarter sales with 8,150, which was 61 fewer than the 8,211 that the state reported last year. Texas was second with 6,925, 559 fewer than the 7,484 it reported last year.

Michigan was third with 4,467 (up from 4,202); California was fourth with 3,913 (up from 3,010); and South Carolina was fifth with 3,239 (up from 3,027).

The rest of the top 10 were North Carolina, with 3,018 (up from 2,761); New York, with 2,846 (up from 2,840); Wisconsin, with 2,842 (up from 2,829); Minnesota, with 2,841 (down from 2,984); and Tennessee, with 2,362 (up from 2,030).

Sales of 14- to 30-foot sterndrive and inboard boats, a segment that has struggled in recent years, fell 11.2 percent during the quarter, or 409, to 3,259, although Kloppe said sales of 20- to 40-foot boats in the sterndrive category are up 2.5 percent for the year to date.

In the bigger-boat categories, apart from the cruiser segment, sales of 41- to 65-foot yachts fell by four, to 211, and sales of semicustom and custom yachts of 66 feet or larger rose by three, to 38. The Coast Guard was up to date in its reports on documented vessels, providing complete figures in the bigger-boat categories.

Sailboat sales fell by 10 percent, or 68 boats, to 614.

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