Fishermen, pontoon-boat buyers and people who are attracted to small to midsize outboard boats have been leading the recreational boating industry’s rebound from the Great Recession. They may be getting some company.
Figures for January don’t contradict what has been a two-year trend, but they suggest that some of the bigger-boat categories may be poised to play a larger role in the moderate but steady sales gains the industry has been posting. January is a slow month — typically the third-slowest of the year, after December and November — so the numbers are small, but sales of cruisers and larger yachts all showed improvement as Statistical Surveys reported results today from 30 early-reporting states.
Sales in January rose 9.9 percent, to 3,532 boats, in the main powerboat segments, compared with the same month last year, and they rose 9.2 percent industrywide, to 4,876, in states that represent about 65 percent of the national market.
“The momentum of sales from last year has definitely carried over and consumer confidence continues to grow,” said Ryan Kloppe, national marine sales manager at Statistical Surveys.
Sales for the month were highest in the 11- to 40-foot outboard fiberglass category, where the gain was 11.4 percent, to 1,549 boats. Pontoon sales climbed 21 percent, to 531 boats, and sales of aluminum fishing boats rose 6.2 percent, to 972.
“Customers continue to set the purchasing trends, telling the industry that pontoons and fiberglass outboards will remain popular segments this year,” Kloppe said. “I was in Miami [for the boat shows] and there was positive buzz around the show regarding new-boat models, new engines and a lot of people buying boats.”
In the bigger-boat categories, the numbers were small but the gains were across the board. Sales of 31- to 40-foot cruisers rose by 23 boats, to 84, sales of 41- to 62-foot yachts climbed by 22, to 73, and sales of 63- to 99-foot custom and semicustom yachts increased by five, to 18.
The only category in the main segments that showed a decline was 14- to 30-foot inboards and sterndrives, where sales fell 19.5 percent, to 173. The segment has been steadily losing ground.
A majority of the top 10 states for sales in January were Southern, as is often the case during the heart of the winter in much of the nation. Florida was the leader among the early-reporting states with 1,784 sales, followed by Texas (718), North Carolina (273), California (246) and South Carolina (216).
Rounding out the top 10 were Arkansas (202), Tennessee (181), Michigan (157), Washington (113) and Minnesota (103).
Ski-boat sales showed a modest gain of three, to 132; jetboat sales fell by eight, to 53.
Sales of personal watercraft rose by 73, or 13.8 percent, to 603.
Sailboat sales rose by nine, to 106.