Early spring weather was unkind to the U.S. marine industry again this year, but first-quarter numbers from Statistical Surveys suggest that 2014’s signature bitter chill was somewhat less of a sales deterrent than the raw and wet conditions were a year earlier.
Sales in the industry’s main powerboat segments edged higher this year, rising by 212 boats, or 0.9 percent, to 23,684, and industrywide sales rose by 824 boats, or 2.5 percent, to 34,341, in 48 states that represent 99 percent of the nation’s boat market.
Only Maine and Hawaii, which report sales once a year, were not included in the report. A year earlier, sales fell 4.4 percent for the quarter in the main segments and 8 percent industrywide.
“I think we better weathered the storm this year,” Statistical Surveys national marine sales manager Ryan Kloppe said.
Kloppe said the data bore out reports from exhibitors at boat shows that they were seeing significant numbers of interested and qualified buyers.
“I think pent-up demand helped us through the bad weather,” he said. “As we hit the summer months in this country, I think you’ll see the sales gains continue.”
In a tale of two tough seasons, sales were higher for the quarter this year in each of the three high-volume segments where the industry has shown significant growth since the Great Recession ended.
Sales of 11- to 40-foot fiberglass outboard boats rose 4.6 percent or 362, to 8,272, and sales also increased in two high-volume categories of aluminum boats. Sales of fishing boats climbed 2.1 percent, or 178, to 8,465, and sales of pontoon boats eked out a gain of 0.4 percent, or 17, to 4,604.
Sales of 14- to 30-foot inboard and sterndrive fiberglass boats continued to struggle, falling by 14.2 percent, or 315, to 1,899.
The top sales states for the quarter were Florida (5,125), Texas (3,493), Louisiana (2,036), Alabama (1,432) and North Carolina (1,338), all of which reported higher sales than they did for the first quarter last year.
Rounding out the top 10 were Georgia (1,251), Missouri (1,248), Minnesota (1,098), South Carolina (1,079) and Wisconsin (1,013).
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 39 boats, to 243, and sales of 41- to 62-foot yachts dropped by six boats, to 154, but sales of custom and semicustom yachts from 63 to 99 feet rose by 15, to 47.
Sales of personal watercraft rose by 15.2 percent, or 573 units, to 4,351, sales of ski boats rose by 9 percent, or 74 boats, to 897, and sales of jetboats climbed by 8.3 percent, or 45 boats, to 586.
Sales of sailboats fell by 7.2 percent, or 35 boats, to 450.