Boat registrations were up 1.5 percent in July in the main powerboat categories compared to July last year, according to Statistical Surveys Inc. Year-to-date registrations, however, were down 5.6 percent compared to the same period in 2018.
Registrations for all boats were up 1.6 percent for July, but down 4 percent year to date.
SSI included Florida in July’s data, but says that state’s data, as well as statistics from the U.S. Coast Guard, is incomplete. “You will see the data go up even more once we can get Florida’s complete numbers and data from the U.S. Coast Guard in the mix here,” SSI sales director Ryan Kloppe told Trade Only Today.
The comparison to July 2018 is also difficult, Kloppe added, since that month was up 10.7 percent over July 2017 in the main powerboat categories and 11.1 percent overall, according to Statistical Surveys Inc.
The aluminum fishing boat category posted its first registration gain in months, growing 1.9 percent year-over-year compared to July 2018, but was still down 10.7 percent year-to-date, according to preliminary SSI data gathered from 32 states, representing almost 74 percent of the U.S. market.
Pontoons also finally reemerged in positive territory, growing 9.3 percent in July versus July 2018, but were off 3.7 percent year-to-date. Ski and wake boats were another bright spot in the monthly data, having grown 17.4 percent versus July 2018, and remaining in positive territory with 2.7 percent growth year-to-date.
Outboard fiberglass boats were down 5.1 percent compared to July last year, and were down 3.2 percent year-to-date.
“I think it’s a culmination of many things — including weather and other factors,” Kloppe said. “We knew June was horrible, so some people probably did delay boat purchases to July. Water levels are at almost all-time highs here in the Great Lakes, so certain bridges you can’t go under.”
Kloppe said Florida is having reporting problems. “I almost kept Florida out, but people want to see it in the data because it’s the largest boating state,” said Kloppe. “But if Florida continues like this, they will not be in the monthly data. They know there’s something wrong with their systems, but they haven’t figured it out. It’s not just affecting marine. It’s affecting automobile registrations and powersports.”
The U.S. Coast Guard has also been behind on data usually included in preliminary numbers, said Kloppe, which explains the large drop in large boat and yacht registrations — cruisers 31 to 40 feet were down 25.6 percent and yachts 41 to 65 feet were down 54.3 percent.
“The National Vessel Documentation Center is experiencing delays in the time necessary to issue a Certificate of Documentation due to performance issues associated with its Information Technology System,” the Coast Guard website states. “The Coast Guard recognizes the need to minimize the effect on the maritime community.”
“We’re seeing some of the Midwest states get warmer weather, and we’re seeing a little uptick in registrations there,” said Kloppe. “Ski and wake continues to do well, albeit less numbers than pontoon or fish.”
It might be too soon to say whether the industry will finish out 2019 in positive territory as previously predicted, said Kloppe.
“Next month we’ll have a better idea — August will be out, and the second-quarter data will be out, so I think we’ll have a good understanding of where we’re at then,” said Kloppe.