In Miami, boat sales become latest sign of US recovery –

More than 100,000 manufacturers, retailers, brokers and buyers have converged on Miami for one of the biggest boat industry events in the world.

Each year, the Miami International Boat Show and the luxury-oriented Yacht and Brokerage Show on Miami Beach, simultaneously set up shop. The showboat events feature thousands of watercraft and accompanying aquatic accessories, all of which are up for grabs.

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Whether its aluminum fishing boats or mega yachts, one theme is prevailing across price categories at both shows: boat sales are back.

“Almost everything is selling,” says Thom Dammrich, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA). “Pontoon, ski-and-wakeboard boats—both of those are increasing double digits, and salt water fishing boats are very strong.”

That’s welcome news for an industry rocked by the recession. Like other types of big-ticket discretionary items, demand for recreational boats plunged dramatically in the economic downturn. Sales of new boats sunk 60 percent from their pre-recession peak, staying sluggish for years as the much larger pre-owned market held steady. The wave of distressed supply drew in enterprising bargain hunters, who dominated the market.

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Yet if the buzz at Miami’s shows is any indication, the tide seems to be turning.

The NMMA estimates new boat sales grew 7 to 8 percent last year, and it forecasts similar momentum for 2015. While sales activity is still about a third below that mid-2000s peak, consumer spending on boats, marine accessories and other related goods has surged back to pre-recession levels, according to data. In 2014, spending on the recreational boating in the U.S. approached $40 billion.

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