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Boat sales on pace for 10 percent gain in 2014

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New-boat sales are tracking to be up about 10 percent this year from 2013, with about 95 percent of the sales that will commence in 2014 having already been made.

Pontoons and personal watercraft were “the big winners,” Info-Link managing director Jack Ellis told Trade Only Today, although most segments have continued to grow.

“The only segments that continue to struggle are runabouts, cruisers and yachts,” Ellis said.

Yacht sales remained flat from 2013 and runabouts continued their decline, albeit more slowly than in recent years. Slightly more than 15,000 of those were sold in 2014 for the 12 months that ended in September.

PWC saw 23 percent growth, to about 47,000 units, according to Info-Link data, and pontoons saw about 6.5 percent growth to about 41,500 units.

Pontoon sales growth has slowed somewhat, but still remains solid, especially considering that the growth is on top of double-digit increases for the last several years, Ellis said.

Saltwater fishing boats and ski boats had double-digit increases of 14 percent and 16 percent, respectively. The saltwater fishing boat segment has continued to grow as Florida’s housing market improves, Ellis said.

“The ski-boat market has done very well, with about a 16 percent year-over-year growth, but in terms of its overall impact on boating, the numbers are small,” Ellis said.

About 7,500 ski boats were sold, compared with about 12,000 in the segment’s heyday. But “while it’s small, relative to the overall market, it’s still good to see that segment grow, especially if you consider those are expensive boats,” he said.

Freshwater fishing boat sales were tracking to be about 10 percent above 2013, with about 43,000 boats sold.

“The thing that’s tough is, every one of these segments that has seen good growth over the course of this year, they’re still half what they were,” Ellis said — every segment except pontoons.

“Pontoon boat sales are almost identical to what they were in 2005,” Ellis said. “Pontoons are by far the big winners when you look at things long-term. It will be interesting to see how long it lasts. Even people who, perhaps years ago, would have bought a runabout, they are looking at pontoons because they have more power and more amenities.”

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