Mixed News On Boat Sales Front

Boat buying tanked when the recession bit in the Northwest — but hope is on the horizon for dealers.

New figures from the National Marine Manufacturers Association show that new jet, inboard and outboard boats, engines, trailers and accessory sales dropped 13.3 percent in Alaska between 2008 and 2009, 15.9 percent in Washington, 18.3 percent in Idaho, 18.7 percent in Oregon and 21.2 percent in Montana.

“Last year was the worst year of all time,” said one salesman who calls on numerous boat dealers around the Northwest.

That said, first quarter 2010 data from NMMA also shows a nationwide slowing in the sales declines of new powerboats – down 12 percent compared to a decline of 35 percent during the first quarter 2009 – as well as a 2 percent increase in boat services such as repairs/services, storage, insurance, taxes and interest payments worth $6.3 billion.

Sales of pre-owned powerboats increased 7.7 percent to 780,300 and increased 5.4 percent in dollars for a retail value of $8.5 billion in 2009 too.

Leading this new-boat sales recovery are small aluminum outboard boats, says a press release from NMMA. Sales of those in the 18-foot range increased 30 percent during the first quarter 2010.

The jump is said to provide an early indicator that a recovery in new boat sales is coming — though the rise was most pronounced east of the Rockies.

“Consumer spending and consumer confidence increases in March and April have helped boost new aluminum outboard powerboat sales, leading a recovery for the recreational boating industry as overall new powerboat sales declines slow,” says Thom Dammrich, president of NMMA, in a press release. “This growth can signal a return of the entry-level boater and the outdoors enthusiast and angler to boating and overall growing trend in fishing.”

The top ten states for aluminum boat sales last year were, in order, Texas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Florida, Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois and Georgia.

“We anticipate 2010 new powerboat sales to remain flat with 2009 as the economic indicators that impact our industry – consumer confidence, housing and credit markets, as well as unemployment— start to improve and open the door for boat sales to begin increasing in 2011 and 2012,” notes Dammrich. “The growth in the aluminum outboard boat market is consistent with recent trends showing increased fishing license sales and is an indicator of the beginning of a turnaround for new boat sales. Consumer spending has been increasing for seven months and recreational boating will get its share of new consumer spending as the economy continues to recover.”

That would be good news for Northwest boat dealers such as Three Rivers Marine & Tackle, Auburn Sports & Marine, Master Marine, Boat Country, Bob Feil, Lake Union Sea Ray, Verle’s and Valley Marine in Washington and Stevens Marine, Sigler’s Marine and Y Marine in Oregon, among other outlets for Wooldridges, Alumawelds, Hewescraft, Arimas and more.

Washington boaters of all types spent $338,733,741 on their watercraft, engines, trailers and more in 2009, down from $402,881,675 in 2008 and well off 2005’s $638,026,034.

Oregon recorded $148,255,108 in sales last year, down from $182,273,601 the previous year and a high of $404,682,021 in 2004.

However, at the same time, Beaver State anglers didn’t let the recession stop them from fishing. They purchased over 303,000 licenses in 2009 , the most in the 2000s, despite unemployment of up to 11.2 percent.

Elsewhere in the region, California boat and accessory sales were off by nearly 30 percent, Utah’s by 33.8 percent.

In the national survey, only one state, Iowa, showed an increase last year, up 3.5 percent.

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