Fishing & Boating News

Boating Industry Records Significant Firs-Quarter Growth

by: Dan Green, NMMA Staff,

(Jun. 29, 2004 - CHICAGO, IL) Wholesale dollar sales of all boats were up 20.8 percent in the first quarter 2004 compared to the same period last year, according to data from the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA). The trade association, which represents companies that manufacture an estimated 80 percent of marine products used in North America, also said that unit shipments through March are up 19.8 percent compared to the first quarter of 2003. These are positive early indicators for significant growth in the boating industry in 2004, with optimism buoyed by this first quarter as well as fourth quarter 2003 retail new-boat sales, which increased one percent over the same period in 2002. The retail numbers for the first quarter are off to a great start compared to 2003. For the first three months of 2004, retail powerboat sales were up 11 percent compared to the same period last year. All segments show positive gains for the first quarter, with inboard cruisers up 20 percent, outboard boats up 14 percent, jet drive boats up 32 percent, stern drive boats up five percent and personal watercraft (PWC) up three percent. Industry leaders recently polled by NMMA said that in addition to experiencing a strong increase in wholesale boat sales in units and dollars in the first quarter, they also indicated that they intended to hire additional employees to meet the anticipated demand for new boats. "The boating industry will continue to benefit from Americans' renewed emphasis on spending quality time with family and friends," said NMMA President Thom Dammrich. "A favorable economy, rising consumer sentiment and continued low interest rates are also playing important roles in attracting more people to boating. "Increased attendance at major boat shows is another very positive signal for the industry," continued Dammrich. "Half of the new boat-owners surveyed by J.D. Power and Associates last year said they began their purchase at a boat show." Retail expenditures on boating-related goods and services were approximately $30 billion in 2003, down one percent from 2002, according to NMMA. "While we did see a slight decline in 2003, sales growth in the boating industry continues to outpace U.S. economic growth when you compare numbers over the last seven years," said Jim Petru, director of market statistics for NMMA. "Sales in the boating industry have increased an average of 8 percent annually since 1997, while the Gross Domestic Product has averaged 3.2 percent annual growth." NMMA also reports a 6 percent increase in boating participation since 2001. More than 72 million Americans were boaters in 2003, four million more than in 2001. They used 130,000 more boats than they did in 2002, taking 17.49 million boats out on the nation's waterways. Overall, there were 841,000 new boats sold last year, with the average price of a new boat rising 3.3 percent to $12,611. The industry is also witnessing a continuing trend toward bigger boats, with sales of outboard boats over 18' increasing 24 percent between 1997 and 2003. Many industry segments experienced increased retail sales in 2003, led by outboard boats, which recorded sales of approximately $2.74 billion, up roughly 20 percent compared to 2002. Other industry segments recording retail sales increases include outboard motors (up 3.1 percent to $2.55 billion); sterndrive boats (up 1.2 percent to $2.22 billion) and personal watercrafts (up 2.7 percent to $717 million). The 60-page 2003 Recreational Boating Statistical Abstract features more detailed information on industry activity by sector, annual unit and dollar sales, and includes data to provide historical comparisons dating back to 1997. Copies of the report can be purchased for $350 by contacting NMMA’s fulfillment department at (312) 946-6209. For more information on the report, contact NMMA assistant director of Communications Dan Green at (312) 946-6269;