Florida hurricane hurts boat sales in September

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Chart of Sept 2017 boat data

During most months Florida leads all states in new-boat sales, but Hurricane Irma made September an exception.

Sales in the Sunshine State fell 37 percent, to 831, from 1,405 in the same month last year and the decline there was the leading factor as the U.S. recreational boating industry reported lower overall sales for only the second month this year.

Sales fell 4.8 percent in the main powerboat segments, to 6,230, and they dropped 5.6 percent industrywide, to 9,451, in 28 states that represent about 58 percent of the U.S. boat market, Statistical Surveys said today.

If you remove Florida from the list, however, sales were up 3.4 percent, Statistical Surveys sales director Ryan Kloppe said.

“That’s how much weight Florida carries,” Kloppe said. “Florida is the No. 1 boating state in the country. If they’re down, they’re going to drag the rest of the industry down with them.”

For the year through September, sales are up 4.5 percent in the main segments, or 6,300, at 147,215, and they are 3.7 percent higher industrywide, or 8,153, at 227,882. Industry forecasts were for a gain of 4 to 6 percent this year.

Kloppe said the industry remains capable of achieving the predicted increase.

“I think we’re still in that realm, even with the weather’s effects,” he said.

Irma made landfall at Cudjoe Key on Sept. 10 as a Category 4 storm and did extensive damage in the state. It was the first major hurricane to hit the United States since Hurricane Wilma in 2005.

Outboard fiberglass boats from 11 to 50 feet have been one of the industry’s strongest categories since the Great Recession ended, but it was the weakest one in the main segments in September. Sales fell 12.7 percent, or 329 boats, to 2,267. The category includes runabouts, center consoles and sportfishing boats, all of which sell well in Florida. Through September, sales are still up 5.2 percent in the segment, at 42,983.

Pontoon boats, another industry mainstay, also slipped. Sales fell 2.5 percent, or 34, to 1,347. Through September, sales are still up 7.2 percent, at 45,702.

The only high-volume category in the main segments that had a gain for the month was aluminum fishing boats. Sales in that segment rose 5.8 percent, or 93 boats, to 1,693.

Outside the main segments, sales of personal watercraft had a rare poor month as sales fell 8.2 percent, or 186, to 2,074. For the year through September the PWC category leads the industry with sales of 56,221 units, a 5.1 percent increase from last year.

Sales of inboard and sterndrive boats from 14 to 30 feet fell 9.9 percent, or 42, to 381, but that category has struggled in recent years.

Sales of ski and wake boats rose by 12, or 2.9 percent, to 421, but jetboat sales fell by 45, or 24.1 percent, to 142. Ski and wake boat sales are up 6.2 percent for the year, at 8,103, and jetboat sales remain 5.5 percent higher, at 4,429.

The Coast Guard was up to date in its reports on documented vessels, providing complete figures in the bigger-boat categories.

Sales of 31- to 40-foot cruisers, another category popular in Florida, fell by 20, to 62; sales of 41- to 65-foot yachts rose by three, to 50; and sales of 66-foot and larger custom and semicustom yachts rose by two, to nine.

Seven of the top 10 early-reporting states reported lower sales than in the same month last year.

Texas led with 1,628 sales, up from 1,467 last year. Florida’s 1,405 placed it second (down from 2,236); California was third at 1,260 (up from 973); North Carolina was fourth at 643 (down from 671); and Michigan was fifth at 603 (down from 623).

Rounding out the top 10 were Georgia, at 432 (up from 388); Alabama, at 373 (down from 420); Washington, at 322 (down from 328); Ohio, at 311 (down from 320); and New York, at 269 (down from 340).

Sailboat sales fell by 37, to 86, and are 31.9 percent lower for the year in the early-reporting states, at 1,327.

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