NMMA says US boat sales will ride a rising tide into 2015

The Chicago, IL, US-based recreational boating association says powerboat sales were up 7-8% in 2014 and will increase an additional 5% this year.

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The National Marine Manufacturers Assn. (NMMA, Chicago, IL, US) is estimating that  the US recreational boating industry in 2014 will have seen a 78% increase in sales of new powerboats, when the figures are all in, and expects continued growth in sales during 2015 of an additional 5%. NMMA says this will be the industry’s third consecutive year of steady growth, after emerging from the 2008-2012 recession. In addition, total 2014 retail expenditures — which include retail spending on boats, engines, marine accessories and services — are expected to see increases of as much as 5%, which would eclipse 2007, one of the healthiest prerecession years for the industry. (Compare these figures to those gathered by NMMA and others in mid-recession September 2010, recorded by CompositesWorld editor-in-chief Jeff Sloan in "Marine composites: A new dawn?"and his followup 2013 commentary "Whither the marine market?" To read the articles, click on their titles under "Editor's Picks" at top right).

In 2014, the strongest sales came from new ski/wakeboard boats, pontoon boats, aluminum fishing boats, fiberglass runabouts and personal watercraft. Sales of larger cruising boats also started to see an uptick.

“An improved economy with GDP projected to grow 3%, an improving housing market, a stronger job market, increasing consumer confidence and a multi-year low on fuel prices have bolstered people’s financial outlook, which bodes well for new boat sales,” said Thom Dammrich, NMMA president. “Should these economic indicators remain positive, we anticipate sales growth of new boats to continue over the next three years.”

Another positive indicator for the industry is the record number of Americans getting on the water (89 million in 2013 — the most recent figure available). What’s more, the industry has placed additional focus on introducing boats for a variety of budgets, offering attractive entry points for the boating lifestyle.

NMMA's contention is that early-2015 boat shows will help boost sales. Boat shows, the association contends, are a leading sales venue for the industry and a barometer for sales and buyer trends in the coming year. Marine manufacturers unveil their latest boats, engines and marine accessories at boat shows, offering them for sale for the first time, giving buyers an opportunity to buy the boat onsite and have it ready to launch in time for the spring boating season. At this year’s shows, buyers can expect a surge of new boats and marine accessories along with a focus on smaller boats that start at lower price points.

“We’re seeing boat dealers and manufacturers increase their space at boat shows around the US, signaling their anticipation of a strong boat show buying season," notes Dammrich. "We expect all boat segments to see growth at boat shows — from personal watercraft to small family runabouts to fishing boats and large cruising boats — especially with the variety of exciting new boats being offered and as more people turn to boating in an improving economy.”

NMMA released the following US recreational boating facts and figures:

  • Recreational boating retail expenditures (new and pre-owned boats and engines, trailers, accessories and services, including fuel, repair, storage, insurance, taxes) increased 3.5% in 2013 to US$36.8 billion.
  • Sales of powerboats (outboard, stern-drive, inboard and jet boats) were up 2.4% in 2013, reaching a total of 161,130 units. Unit sales are expected to have increased 57% in 2014 once numbers are calculated.
  • In addition to new boats, there were an estimated 955,300 pre-owned boats (power, personal watercraft, and sail) sold in 2013.
  • Made in America: 95% of powerboats sold in the US are made in the US. 
  • Recreational boating in the US creates more than 338,500 marine industry jobs, supporting more than 34,800 businesses.
  • Americans are taking to the water in record numbers: Of the 242 million adults in the U.S. in 2013, 89 million participated in recreational boating at least once during the year — up 1% from 2012.
  • There were an estimated 12 million registered boats (power, sail, and some canoes/kayaks and other unpowered boats) in the US in 2013 (the most recent data available).
  • Of all boats on the water in the US, 95% are 26 ft or less in length.
  • Fully 72% of American boat owners have a household income less than US$100,000.

About NMMA: The National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) is the leading association representing the recreational boating industry in North America. Reportedly, NMMA member companies produce more than 80% of the boats, engines, trailers, accessories and gear used by boaters and anglers throughout the U.S. and Canada. The association is dedicated to industry growth through programs in public policy advocacy, market statistics and research, product quality assurance and promotion of the boating lifestyle. For more information, visit NMMA.org.