New-boat sales were up 4.6 percent in August, based on preliminary data from Statistical Surveys, and climbed 3.3 percent in the main powerboat categories.
“Positive months are always good,” SSI sales director Ryan Kloppe told Trade Only Today. “If you have positive growth on top of positive, on top of positive, that’s great.”
In the main powerboat categories, ski and wake boats saw the most robust growth for the month — 14.9 percent, with 856 units registered — based on early reporting from 27 states representing around 62 percent of the U.S. market.
Aluminum fishing boats followed, growing 9.5 percent with 2,695 units sold versus 2,462 last year. Pontoon sales increased 5.8 percent to 3,452 units from 3,262 last year.
There was continued momentum in PWC sales, which rose 9 percent to 6,246 registrations versus 5,731 in August 2017.
Sales of outboard fiberglass boats declined 3.5 percent.
Boat registrations in Florida dipped from 3,272 for the month in 2017 to 3,129 this year. Kloppe speculated that Florida was still running behind with its registration paperwork, which the firm suspects has been a recurring issue all summer.
“Florida’s the fiberglass saltwater Mecca, so I bet there’s a few units that are going to come in a little late,” Kloppe said. “We can correct some of them when they do come in if they come with the actual date of registration, but we only get those on a fraction of the files.”
Another possibility is that sales have slowed because Florida’s west coast has been plagued by red tide. This week a persistent bloom in southwest Florida extended along about 135 miles of the coast, from northern Pinellas to northern Collier counties, and offshore.
Still, the state outperformed all others for the month, followed by Texas, up 260 units to 2,575, and California, down 264 units to 1,765. Kloppe believes that dip was also due to delayed reporting, but he also pointed to the Golden State’s wildfires as possible deterrents to boat buying.
The chief drag in the main powerboat segment numbers were cruisers (boats 31 to 40 feet) and custom yachts over 66 feet. Cruisers dropped from 97 units last August to 57 this year, a 22.7 percent decline. Larger yachts went from 15 to 8, factoring in a 46.7 percent plunge. (Yachts 41 to 65 feet were relatively flat, with 57 sold this year versus 56 last year.)
“The larger boats have been bouncing around,” Kloppe said, but because the volume of sales is so small, the difference between selling one or two more or a handful fewer units translates into double-digit percentages.
Sterndrive-boat sales rose a half-point in August, on top of 5 percent growth in July, with 774 units sold.
Sailboat registrations lagged again, dipping 24.3 percent to 109 units sold in the month.