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October boat sales underwhelming

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Boat registrations in October were up 1.1 percent year-over-year in the main powerboat categories, driven largely by aluminum fish and ski and wake boats, which saw increases of 4.8 percent and 3.8 percent, respectively. Personal watercraft experienced the biggest jump in unit sales across all categories.

Sterndrive-powered boats between 14 and 30 feet also saw a 3.6 percent boost to 228 units, according to new data released by Statistical Surveys Inc., a Michigan firm that tracked early registration data from 30 states, representing about 58.24 percent of the market.

“It’s only [up] eight units, but it was nice to see sterndrives up,” SSI sales director Ryan Kloppe told Trade Only Today. “PWCs had a big month.”

PWC sales led growth for the total industry with a 26.6 percent increase over October 2017, with nearly 1,500 units sold.

All other categories outside of the main powerboat categories were down, including sail (-43.5 percent), jet boats (-9.1 percent), and electric boats (-40 percent).

Outboard-powered fiberglass boats saw another decline in October, sliding 1.3 percent to 2,440 units from 2,472 last year.

Weather could have played a part in the lackluster numbers — California wildfires burned through much of the state, and the Northeast and Midwest grappled with an uncharacteristically cold and wet fall.

That could be part of the reason pontoon sales were relatively flat at .2 percent growth. “Those typically sell better in the Midwest, and it’s freezing cold here,” said Kloppe.

Concerns over trade wars, productivity and wage pressure might have also been on the minds of consumers entering into the holiday season. Midterms might also have prompted a drag on sales.

Florida led state sales again, selling 2,106 units versus 2,045 last year, followed by Texas, which saw a little dip from last year with 1,045 sold this year versus 1,174 last year.

California, the third ranking state for boat registrations, saw growth with 787 registrations this October versus 690 last year.

“We’re holding steady to that 3 percent growth this year,” said Kloppe. “As the months roll on, there’s not much that’s going to bump it over 3 percent.”

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