Economy’s rising tide propels recreational boat sales – The News

Recreational boat sales are moving out of the recessionary doldrums, both nationally and locally.

The National Marine Manufacturers Association recently reported new and used boat sales, related gear and services generated an estimated $36.7 billion in 2013, a 3.2 percent year-over-year rise.

Although purchases of really big, high-end boats taper off a bit during Southwest Florida’s wet summers, dealers do expect to see some local folks buying late-model used boats or trading up when the 2015 models start arriving in July.

In Lee County, summers at boat dealerships used to be so languid “everybody used to put out the sign that said ‘Gone fishing,’ ” said Ray Jahn, general manager of Fish Tale Sales Service on Fort Myers Beach.

“Those days have changed,” Jahn said.

Summer is when “a lot of our foreign customers come in and buy,” Jahn said. Choices for 2014 models include Grady-White fishing craft starting at $50,000 for a 19-footer, and Robalo and Chaparral dual console boats starting at about $32,000.

And, by the end of June, Jahn expects to have about a dozen orders for 2015 model-year boats.

Looking back at 2013, Jahn said that for his business, “it was our most successful year since at least 2008.”

How bad was the recession for boat sales? Jahn said that in the boom years of 2005-2007 “we’d sell 20 to 30 boats at the Fort Myers Boat show alone.”

But from 2008 through 2010, “you were lucky if people talked to you at the boat shows.

Since 2011, Jahn said, “We’ve see an uptick. American people will go only for so long, not being active and enjoying their lifestyle.”

Nationally, the marine manufacturers report for 2013 shows an estimated 166,800 new powerboats and sailboats were sold at retail for a year-over-year increase of 2.2 percent.

That came on the heels of the industry’s 2012 rebound when new powerboat and sailboat retail sales increased 10.7 percent — the industry’s first sign of recovery.

The marine manufacturers group projects an additional 5 percent to 7 percent increase in retail sales of new boats in 2014.

“A trend in boat manufacturing is the versatile boat — one that can pull tubers or wake boarders, be used for fishing outings, relaxing with the family or entertaining,” said Thom Dammrich, marine industries association president.

At Naples Marina Sales in Collier County, owner Phil Jentgen said business was “up a bit” in 2013, and has been decent so far this year.

His clientele is highly seasonal: “I probably do 75 percent of my new-boat business in the winter six months,” Jentgen said.

However, used boat sales this summer “have been extremely strong,” Jentgen said, adding: “The locals are buying.”

Boating 2013

• Of the 241.9 million U.S. adults, 36.6 percent tried recreational boating at least once — the second highest percentage on record.

More than 57 percent of boaters fished while boating; 19.3 percent of boaters canoed; 17.8 percent tubed; and 14.6 percent water-skied.

95 percent of boats on the water were 26 feet or less — boats that can be trailered by a vehicle.

71 percent of boat owners had household incomes of less than $100,000.

The top five states for sales (rounded) of new powerboats, motors, trailers and accessories:

SOURCE: National Marine Manufacturers Association 2013 Recreational Boating Statistical Abstract

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