Boat sales up 2 percent in first quarter

Recreational boat sales rose 2 percent in the first quarter, slower growth than the industry posted a year earlier.
Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Recreational boat sales rose 2 percent in the first quarter, slower growth by comparison with the double-digit gains the industry posted a year earlier.

Sales in the main powerboat segments and industrywide rose by an identical 2.4 percent, to 31,881 and 44,019 boats respectively, from the 2016 quarter in 48 states that represent 97 percent of the U.S. boat market, Statistical Surveys reported today.

A year earlier, main-segments sales rose 10.7 percent to 29,362 and industrywide sales climbed 10.4 percent to 40,783, also with 48 states reporting.

“It’s still growth on top of growth,” Statistical Surveys sales director Ryan Kloppe said today of the quarterly results. ”You’re still seeing moderate growth in the industry.”

Kloppe said sales in Northern and Midwestern states were slow to ramp up during the early months this year. Forecasts are for full-year sales growth of 4 to 6 percent and Kloppe said he believes sales in the second quarter and the top-selling months — April through July — will improve and move the industry closer to expectations.

“I think you’ll see in the prime selling months a little bit of an uptick in the year-over-year results,” he said.

April sales in 23 early-reporting states indicate that the industry began the second quarter this year at a stronger pace. Sales were up 3.5 percent in the main segments and 5 percent industrywide.

Figures for May are due out next week.

Pontoon sales were up 11 percent in April, jetboat sales were up 13.7 percent, ski and wake boat sales were up 8.8 percent and personal watercraft sales were up 12.9 percent. Kloppe said PWC sales are growing at a pace that would lift the category above 60,000 units this year.

In the first quarter this year the three high-volume categories in the main segments — aluminum fishing and pontoon boats and 11- to 50-foot fiberglass outboard boats — saw sales rise by small to moderate amounts.

The fiberglass outboard category performed the best. Sales rose 6.3 percent, or 643, to 10,894 boats. Aluminum fishing boat sales rose 2.7 percent, or 278, to 10,762, and sales of aluminum pontoon boats rose 0.9 percent, or 59, to 6,772.

Sales of ski and wake boats were nearly flat, falling by five to 1,290, and jetboat sales climbed 6.5 percent, or 49, to 807.

Personal watercraft had the top percentage gain among the industry’s high-volume categories. Sales rose 9.4 percent for the quarter, or 546, to 6,329.

The Coast Guard was up to date in its reports on documented vessels, providing a complete quarterly report in the bigger-boat categories. Sales of 31- to 40-foot cruisers fell by 11 to 256; sales of 41- to 65-foot yachts dropped by 32 to 193; and sales of 66-foot and larger custom and semicustom yachts rose by seven to 35.

Sailboat sales fell by 168, or 34.7 percent, for the quarter, to 316.


‘All cylinders firing’

“Honestly, we saw pretty darn good strength in all segments,” said MarineMax CFO Michael McLamb, following yesterday’s record quarter.