New boat sales dip below pre-pandemic levels in US

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The National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) reports new powerboat sales year-to-date were at 187,000 units through July in North America, down 18 per cent from the same period in 2021.

“In the first seven months of the year, new boat sales have dipped below our 2019 pace, demonstrating that the combination of economic uncertainty and the expected return of competition for consumers’ attention are starting to show their impact,” says Frank Hugelmeyer, NMMA president.

“This is not unique to boating as most industries are experiencing pressures as inflation, a volatile stock market and talk of a global recession have grown. NMMA will be working to keep boating top of mind for consumers, and the business community through the industry’s Discover Boating efforts, including boat shows launching this January.”

While overall new powerboat sales decreased 11 per cent compared to January through July in pre-pandemic 2019, several categories continue to outpace pre-pandemic year-to-date (YTD) sales levels, including new pontoon boats, wake sport boats and yachts.

There have been concerns internationally in recent months that the invasion of Ukraine could have a knock-on effect across the industry, following the post-pandemic bubble.

While it has been a worrying time for marine firms, many companies now have order books that stretch well into the future, even if supply chain issues continue to be a headache. 

“Now is the time to closely manage pipelines, credit availability, and consumer demand and lean into customer engagement and marketing following record interest the past two years,” says Hugelmeyer. “And, while we proceed cautiously when looking across the 20-year trend line, 2022 is expected to be a healthy year for our industry.”

New figures released by NMMA show new pontoon unit sales were down 13 per cent YTD, compared to the same period in 2021, while remaining three per cent above pre-pandemic levels of Jan-July 2019.

Unit sales of new wake sport boats were down 11 per cent YTD compared to the same period in 2021, while 16 per cent above pre-pandemic January-July 2019. New yacht unit sales YTD were flat with the same period in 2021, while 16 per cent above pre-pandemic January-July 2019.

Data tracked on a rolling 12-month basis by NMMA shows that new powerboat sales are down 16.7 per cent compared to the previous 12 months. Wholesale shipments of new powerboats through July 2022 decreased 6 per cent year on year, while wholesale shipments of outboard engines increased six per cent year on year.

Notably, the wholesale retail ratio through July for freshwater fishing boats, personal watercraft, and wake sport boat categories indicates improved product availability compared to earlier in the boating season.

“While the persistent supply chain turbulence and challenges are far from ideal, they have prevented us from overproducing as some other industry sectors did throughout the past two years,” says Hugelmeyer. “Marine dealer inventories remain fairly lean, signalling that pipelines are still being refilled, leaving the industry in a healthier position than past slowdowns in recent history.”

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