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Boost in pontoon boat sales gains attention

Trade Only Today has been closely tracking the pontoon industry's growth, but now more mainstream business publications are taking notice of the segment’s popularity.

Steve Tadd, marketing director for Elkhart, Ind.-based boatbuilder Nautic Global Group, told the Fort Wayne (Ind.) Business Journal that sales of pontoon boats are about 25 percent of all boat sales nationally. Five to 10 years ago, they were about 15 percent.

According to numbers released last week by Statistical Surveys, pontoon sales in July rose 12.6 percent year-over-year.

Tadd, whose company is the fourth-largest boatbuilder in the country, said there has been a nationwide shift in demand toward pontoon boats; deckboats, which are similar to pontoon boats; and aluminum fishing boats.

Mike Peters, chief executive of Angola, Ind.-based supplier Indiana Marine Products, believes the recession was the impetus for the growth in pontoon boat sales. Some owners used to have two boats, each intended for different activities. But when the economy collapsed, people had less money to invest in one boat, much less two. So builders turned the pontoon into a multipurpose boat, Peters told the paper.

Robert Paton, general manager of Patona Bay Marina and Resort, a boat dealer on Lake Tippecanoe in Kosciusko County, Indiana, said builders started putting bigger engines on pontoon and deckboats within the last 10 years, making them suitable not only for family gatherings, but also for fishing and water skiing.

Paton told the paper that pontoons are the most popular boat sold at Patona Bay, where new pontoons generally range from $25,000 to $55,000, but can cost as much as $100,000. Patona Bay also has used pontoon boats for less than $10,000.

In addition to economic pressures, Peters believes the lifestyle preferences of the baby-boomer generation has driven the growth of the pontoon segment. Baby boomers want “something nice to entertain on” that’s easy to get in and off of and easy to maintain, Peters told the publication. The pontoon boat, he said, fits the bill.

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