Boat sales post solid gains in October

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Seven of the top 10 states for recreational boat sales recorded more in October than they did in the same month last year as the industry rebounded from a hurricane-influenced September decline.

Sales in the main powerboat segments rose 10.7 percent, or 517, to 5,331, and industrywide sales climbed 9 percent, or 611, to 7,432, in 32 states that represent about 60 percent of the U.S. boat market, Statistical Surveys said Wednesday.

Sales through October are up 4.8 percent in the main segments, at 157,007, and they are up 3.9 percent industrywide, at 241,767. The industry sold 258,879 boats last year.

2017 forecasts were for sales growth of 4 to 6 percent, and Ryan Kloppe, sales director at Statistical Surveys, said today that he believes the industry will finish the year with a gain in that range.

In September seven of the top 10 states reported lower sales than in the same month the previous year. Florida, battered by Hurricane Irma, saw sales fall 37 percent in September and the drop was the leading factor as the industry reported lower overall sales for only the second month this year.

Apart from Florida, sales in September were up 3.4 percent in 28 early-reporting states that represent about 58 percent of the U.S. market.

“The overall market was trending higher before the hurricanes, and now you’re seeing that shining through,” Kloppe said. “You’re seeing a good, strong finish to the 2017 boating season.”

“You’re seeing the states of California, North Carolina, even Michigan do well,” he added. “You’re seeing big gains in those states.”

Kloppe said Florida sales and boat registrations may lag for a time because of the effects of Irma.

Florida usually tops the nation in sales, and it led the early-reporting states with 1,877 in October, although that was 85 less than the 1,962 the state reported in the same month last year.

Among the top 10, the states that recorded higher sales in October were Texas, at 1,171 (up from 1,021); California, at 682 (up from 519); North Carolina, at 493 (up from 397); Georgia, at 386 (up from 297); Michigan, at 381, (up from 337); Alabama, at 337 (up from 307); and New York, at 179 (up from 175).

Besides Florida, Arkansas, at 201 (down from 246) and Washington, at 181 (down from 202) recorded lower sales in October.

Industrywide more outboard-powered fiberglass boats from 11 to 50 feet were sold than in any other category. Sales rose 11.7 percent, or 247, to 2,364.

Among the main segments the lower-volume ski-and-wakeboat category had the highest percentage gain — 25.7 percent, or 64, to 313. The aluminum pontoon boat category had the second-highest percentage gain — 23.2 percent, or 179, to 951.

Sales of aluminum fishing boats, another strong category in recent years, rose 4.1 percent, or 53, to 1,352.

However, sales of inboard and sterndrive boats from 14 to 30 feet fell 6.7 percent, or 16, to 223.

Outside the main segments sales of personal watercraft rose 8 percent, or 83, to 1,126, and sales in the lower-volume jet-boat category rose 11.8 percent, or 14, to 133.

The PWC category leads the industry in sales through October in the early-reporting states with 58,604. The pontoon segment is second, at 47,972, and the outboard fiberglass category is third, at 46,346. The aluminum fishing boat segment has sales of 42,047, giving the industry four categories that top 40,000 with two months left in the year.

The Coast Guard was up to date in its reports on documented vessels, providing complete figures in the bigger-boat categories.

Sales of 31- to 40-foot cruisers fell by 14, to 59; sales of 41- to 65-foot yachts rose by five, to 60; and sales of custom and semicustom yachts of 66 feet or more fell by one, to nine.

Sailboat sales rose 11.6 percent, or 11, to 106, but sales through October are down 29.8 percent, at 1,467, in the early-reporting states.

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