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Sales Still Flat,
At the fall boat shows you’re likely to
see fewer of just about everything: fewer
boats, fewer dealers, and probably fewer
attendees. But if you’re boat shopping,
that’s a good thing. Boat sales plummeted
in ’08 and ’09, beginning a Darwinian
process, weeding out weaker dealerships,
leaving the fittest ones standing. The
remaining dealers are likely to be the ones
who have better relationships with the
builders of their brands and, more importantly, with their customers, as servicing
existing boats has kept many dealers
afloat during the lean times.
After spending the first six months
of year down an average of around 15
percent, sales of fiberglass boats 14- to 30
feet dropped sharply in July by 31 percent, compared with July of 2009.
“The market does still seem to be
pretty soft,” says Michael McLamb, chief
financial officer for MarineMax. “I think
a lot of people are uncertain with what’s
going on with taxes and the economy.”
Sales of aluminum boats were off by
a tenth of a percent, however, compared
with last July. Aluminum pontoon boat
sales were up seven percent. Aluminum
boats typically make up the most afford-
able segment in boating and may be the
first place the market shows a rebound.
On the used-boat side, brokerages
reported that sales were flat, down four
percent in July compared with last year.
However, total sales valuation was up
slightly overall, buoyed by the large-boat
segment. But valuation of boats less than
45 feet continued downward by around
What does all this mean to you if
you’re shopping this fall? Prices haven’t
been this low on used boats less than
45 feet in a decade, relatively speaking.
New-boat shoppers should find dealers
to be very receptive to deal-making, not
just on price, but on extras and add-ons
where they have a greater amount of
control. It’s important to keep in mind
that manufacturers have drastically cut
production, so dealers might not have
as much inventory as in the past, which
could require you to put in more legwork
to see a particular model. But boat shows
are a still a great way to compare products
from multiple builders head to head, and
to start relationships with dealerships
in your region as you search for the
right combination of product and service.
— Michael Vatalaro