Info-Link report details rebound in ski-boat market

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The runabout category has struggled to bounce back post-recession, but the ski and high-performance market has performed well for the last couple of years.

That’s according to Jack Ellis of Florida-based Info-Link, who says the segment has exceeded growth in 2003 in several markets.

“Ski boats used to be about a 12,000-unit market at one point,” Ellis told Trade Only Today. “But the good thing here is that the last couple of years have been growth years for the tournament ski segment, which is interesting because sometimes people lump the ski-boat category into the runabout category. [But the runabout category overall] hasn’t performed that well, where these boats have.”

U.S. ski/wake boat sales.

U.S. ski/wake boat sales.

Ellis thinks the move toward more family activities — one of the factors driving growth in the pontoon market — is also playing a role in the rise of ski-boat sales.

For the 12 months that ended in February, ski-boat sales rose to about 6,000. The segment bottomed out post-recession in 2012 with about 4,800 unit sales before starting a steady climb.

States traditionally known for strong ski-boat sales, such as California, remained strong in February of this year. But states such as Texas, Michigan and North Carolina also accounted for many of the sales. Texas saw the largest year-over-year growth nationwide, with an additional 884 units sold.

And although California sales remained strong proportionally, they were a small percentage — 16 percent — of what the state sold in 2003. In contrast, the number of ski boats sold in Texas in 2013 was 88 percent of what it had been in 2003.

Alabama and Arkansas saw a rise in sales from 2003 — 123 percent and 102 percent, respectively — and states such as Minnesota and North Carolina were at 87 and 83 percent of their 2003 totals.

“The interesting thing here is that there has been a huge shift in ski-boat sales away from California,” Ellis said. “California used to be the principal market for ski-boat sales. [The market is] a little more balanced these days and not so dependent on California. Ski boats are being sold all over the country. There’s more of a balance, so that’s probably a good thing.”

Overall powerboat sales rose in February from 2013, Ellis said, albeit “not by a lot.”

What will be more telling is how sales fare in March, when more of the Northern states traditionally begin the selling season. With several areas receiving snow well into March, Ellis said, “it will be interesting to see how we fare if everyone is still frozen in.”

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