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Summer sales buoyed boating industry

Trends in key categories continued to be mostly positive during the summer as boat sales made steady gains during another year of recovery for the industry.

Info-Link Technologies said this week that sales of powerboats 15 feet and larger rose 7 percent for the rolling three-month period from June through August, compared with the same period last year, in its bellwether states, which the company says are 20 geographically dispersed states that represent more than half of the U.S. market and are predictive of the overall market.

The data are based on new-boat registrations.

Sales of outboard boats 15 feet and larger and sales of outboard sportfishing boats each rose 9.5 percent and sales of ski boats rose 8 percent for the period. Sales of sterndrive boats and jetboats were down 4.5 percent.

 Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

“We had a somewhat slow start to the season,” Info-Link managing director Jack Ellis said Thursday. “Everyone points to the fact that it was a wintry start, but we bounced back hard in June. June was a great month.”

“PWCs have done extraordinarily well this year,” he said, mentioning the Sea-Doo Spark as a boat that has helped drive sales in the segment.

“Ski boats are also doing well,” Ellis said, “and what’s encouraging about that is that they tend to be bought by people who are younger.”

The industry has made it a priority to try to attract more young adults to boating as the baby-boom generation ages.

Discussing the gain in sportfishing boat sales, Ellis said “we think that’s largely a reflection of the recovery of the real estate market in Florida.”

Based on data available to date for the rolling 12-month period that ended in August, Info-Link said sales of outboards 15 feet and larger were up 10.6 percent, at 123,700; sales of fiberglass jetboats were up 12 percent, at 3,400; sales of inboard boats were up 13.4 percent, at 8,500; and sales of sterndrive boats were down 4.6 percent, at 13,900 in the overall U.S. market, compared with the same period a year earlier.

Sales of all powerboats 15 feet and larger were up 9.1 percent, at 149,500, for the 12-month period.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

“We’re now at more than three years of continual positive growth in boat sales,” Ellis said. Barring an unforeseen turndown in the economy, he said, Info-Link expects continued sales growth “at least for the next couple of years.”

Production of recreational boats was reduced during the recession and Ellis said that trend will reduce the number of late-model used boats on the market and could soon lead to more new-boat sales.

“A lot of people [who prefer to buy late-model boats] aren’t going to have that luxury,” he said.

The prices of those boats will rise as the number available shrinks. Seeing the prices of those boats rise toward the cost of new ones, consumers might decide that buying a new boat is a smart decision, Ellis said.

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