It’s still early in the boat-buying season, but April numbers show signs that the bad-weather slump is largely behind the industry and sales are back on the upswing.
April sales are typically the first that the industry reviews to take the overall selling season’s pulse.
“We’re on a continued upswing,” Info-Link managing director Jack Ellis told Trade Only Today. “April has essentially demonstrated what we as an industry had been predicting or hoping. We’re going to come out the other end of this brutal winter and people will start buying boats again, even though it’s a little later than last year.”
On a 12-month rolling basis, outboards continued to drive the industry’s growth, with about a 10,000-unit increase from May 2013 through April 2014, Ellis said. Unit sales of powerboats had continued their five-year momentum, edging up over the 140,000 mark.
The data are based on new-boat registrations and are from Info-Link’s Bellwether states, which the company says are geographically dispersed and represent about half of the U.S. boat market.
“My expectation is in May we’ll see the same thing,” Ellis said, “people who would’ve otherwise bought in March and April buying in May.”
Ellis said the weather’s impact can be seen in the types of boats that have sold, versus those that have seen a bit of sluggishness.
“If you look at boats like saltwater fishing, which tend to sell in larger numbers in Southern states, those continued to tick along,” Ellis said. “Pontoons and freshwater fishing boats took a bit of a ding in the first quarter.”
Because those segments have been in such a heavy growth period for so long, it was unusual to see that decline, Ellis said. “But I really think it was weather-related,” he says. “It continues to be runabouts and smaller cruisers that are struggling. Outboards are driving the growth, and aluminum fishing boats and pontoon boats — and the vast majority of those are outboard-powered.”