Boat sales show gains in February

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Last February, amid a bitterly cold winter across much of the nation, the marine industry’s spring selling season opened with a single-digit sales slump.

This year, despite an equally harsh season that featured plenty of snow, the industry reversed its fortunes as sales rose 5.5 percent to 4,261 in the main powerboat segments and 3.8 percent industrywide to 5,928 in 27 states that represent 62 percent of the U.S. market, Statistical Surveys reported today.

A year earlier, sales were 5.3 percent lower in the main segments and 3.4 percent lower industrywide.

Winter boat shows have reported attendance gains and sizable numbers of visitors who were serious boat buyers and Statistical Surveys national marine sales manager Ryan Kloppe said improved sales results from those shows are starting to appear in the numbers from early-reporting states.

“It’s modest growth, but it’s growth, nonetheless,” he said. “The winter shows have had really good positive feedback and sales.”

Aluminum fishing boats were one of the strongest categories in the main segments; sales in the early-reporting states rose 9.8 percent to 1,320. Kloppe said fishing boats sell well in the early spring because anglers don’t like to wait to enjoy their hobby.

“Those guys are looking to buy in the spring and get out fishing right away,” he said.

Conversely, sales in categories usually associated with summer fun, such as personal watercraft, fared less well in February. Sales of PWC fell 4 percent to 745 and sales of ski boats dropped 6.4 percent to 161, although jet-boat sales rose by 19, or 18.4 percent, to 122.

Sales of aluminum pontoon boats and 11- to 40-foot outboard fiberglass boats, mainstays during the industry’s recovery from the Great Recession, enjoyed single-digit growth in February.

Pontoon sales rose 6.3 percent to 628 and sales of fiberglass outboards climbed an even higher 8.6 percent to 1,822.

The Coast Guard was up to date in its reports of documented vessels, providing a complete picture of sales in the cruiser and yacht segments. Sales of 31- to 40-foot cruisers fell by eight to 42, but sales of 41- to 62-foot yachts rose by five to 32 and sales of 63- to 99-foot custom and semicustom yachts rose by three to 17.

Florida was the sales leader, with 1,667, and all but one of the top 10-selling states was in the South or on the West Coast. After Florida, the leaders were Texas (1,193), North Carolina (357), Washington (294), South Carolina (289), Tennessee (269), Arkansas (262), California (232), Michigan (187) and Mississippi (138).

Sailboat sales rose by seven to 102.

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