Outdoors: Industry report indicates sales, boating participation on the rise

CHICAGO — Boating sales in the United States are up for the first time since 2006, the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) announced last week.

The NMMA said that in 2011, U.S. retail sales for recreational boats, accessories and marine services increased six percent to $32.3 billion, new power and sail boat retail sales increased 0.8 percent to 214,405, and boating participation increased 10 percent to 83 million.

The jump in participation is the largest proportion of adults (34.8 percent) who went boating since 1997, when 35.8 percent participated.

The NMMA hopes the annual Recreational Boating Statistical Abstract data signals the beginning of a recovery for the U.S. recreational boating industry. 

The sales of aluminum power boats (primarily fishing and pontoon boats) were up four percent in 2011. There were 77,150 aluminum power boats sold in 2011.

The top ten states for aluminum power boat retail sales were (in order of highest to lowest): Texas, Minnesota, Michigan, Louisiana, Wisconsin, Florida, Alabama, Missouri, Arkansas and Illinois.

“Pent-up demand for boats following years of diminished willingness to spend by consumers, improved credit availability for buyers and boating businesses, positive shifts in consumer confidence and an overall interest in the benefits of the boating lifestyle are steering the industry toward recovery,” said Thom Dammrich, NMMA president. “Americans’ passion for enjoying the boating lifestyle is taking precedent as they put aside concerns about the economy in favor of creating lifelong memories with loved ones.”

NMMA officials said data indicates the recreational boating industry continues to be predominantly comprised of small boats, which includes the aluminum power boat segment: 95 percent of the 12.4 million registered boats in the U.S. in 2011 were 26 feet or less in size.

Boats less than 26 feet are most often taken by trailer to local bodies of water, in contrast to boats which are 26 feet in length and larger and typically docked at marinas. The size of the boats Americans purchase is relative to boater income: 83 percent of all boat owners in the U.S. in 2011 had an annual household income less than $100,000.

The Recreational Boating Industry by the Numbers

* Boating has an estimated annual economic impact of $72 billion.

* Eighty-three million Americans participated in boating in 2011, an increase of ten percent from 2010 (75 million) and the largest proportion of adults (34.8 percent) who went boating since 1997 (35.8 percent).

* Retail sales of boats, accessories and marine services increased six percent to $32.3 billion in 2011.

* Power and sail boat unit sales increased 0.8 percent to 214,405 in 2011 from 212,645 the previous year.

* An estimated 83 percent of boats sold in the U.S. in 2011 were made in the U.S.

* Ninety-five percent of the 12.4 million registered boats in the U.S. in 2011 were less than 26 feet.

* Retail sales of aluminum power boats (fishing and pontoon boats) increased four percent in 2011.

* Eighty-three percent of boat owners in the U.S. in 2011 had an annual household income less than $100,000.


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