’09 unit sales: Just how bad was it?

We’re wrapping up our annual Market Data Book this week, getting all the pages ready to send off to our printer so the issue can be mailed out at the end of July. As always, there are a lot of pertinent facts and figures. But having worked to help assemble this issue for the last six years, never before have some of the numbers stopped me cold when I first saw them like they did this year.

It’s one thing to hear about sales falling and see the figures without the proper context. But when you look at a chart that has the sales numbers for 2009 displayed alongside the sales figures for the prior 20 or 30 years, it’s startling.

In the Manufacturers section of our Data Book, we include charts that track, among other things, the number of units sold per year in 10 separate product categories. In 2009, not surprisingly, unit sales were down in all 10 of those categories – outboard boats, outboard engines, inboard boats: ski/wakeboard, sailboats, sterndrive boats, inboard boats: cruisers, inflatables, PWC, jet boats and trailers.

But in nine of those 10 segments, the unit sales numbers are not only the lowest on any of their respective charts, they are down so far compared to the numbers from the other years that it made me want to look back and see just when it was they had been this low before.

Now, this was not a scientific exploration. I didn’t take the time to contact the National Marine Manufacturers Association and ask them to dig through their records for the information – although I’m sure they have the exact numbers going back as far as these records have been kept. And I’m in no way certifying that what follows is 100-percent, take-it-to-the-bank certain. This was just me taking a few minutes to look things up because I was curious.

Having said all that, I did look at the statistics NMMA gives us for our Market Data Book, found records on the NMMA website that go back even a bit further, and then went into our magazine archives to try and track those categories where it was necessary to go back even further than that.

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Here’s what I found for each of those segments:

Outboard boats

2009 units sold – 117,500

Prior year unit sales were that low: None, in the yearly records I found, which go back to 1947. And none even approached this number. Next lowest was 1950 (approximately 135,000).

Outboard engines

2009 units sold – 180,700

Prior year unit sales were that low: None, in the yearly records I found, which go back to 1946. And in none of those years were unit sales lower than 200K. They’ve been below 300K nine times during that span (1951, 1982, 1991-93, 2001 and 2007-09) and in all but one of those cases (2008 – 227,000) sales were well above 250K.

Inboard boats: ski/wakeboard

2009 units sold – 6,500

Prior year unit sales were that low: 1997 (6,100)

Sailboats

2009 units sold – 5,400

Prior year unit sales were that low: None, in the yearly records I found, which go back to 1970. Next lowest was in 1991 (8,700).

Sterndrive boats

2009 units sold – 26,550

Prior year unit sales were that low: None, in the yearly records I found, which go back to 1970. Next lowest was 2008 (38,500) and before that sales had not below 50K since 1971.

– Inboard boats: cruisers

2009 units sold – 3,000

Prior year unit sales were that low: None, in the yearly records I found, which go back to 1970. Last time unit sales were below 4,000 was 1993 (3,375).

Jet boats

2009 units sold – 3,550

Prior year unit sales were that low: None, in the yearly records I found, which go back to 1995. Next lowest was 2008 (4,900).

Trailers

2009 units sold – 56,900

Prior year unit sales were that low: 1952 (39,220).

Inflatables

2009 units sold – 21,700

Prior year unit sales were that low: 1991 (21,000) – note: Data from 1993 to 2002 is not available.

PWC

2009 units sold – 44,500

Prior year unit sales were that low: None, in the yearly records I found, which go back to 1991. Next lowest was 2008 (62,600).

I didn’t mean to ruin your holiday weekend by sharing this, just thought it was interesting information to pass along for some historical context to what we’ve all been living through.

We wish you a safe, fun and prosperous time with your friends, families and businesses this Fourth of July weekend.

One comment

  1. Jon,

    Thanks for taking the time to compile this information. While we all "empirically" knew what a rough year it was, seeing it in black and white as you've outlined above is nothing short of startling. Especially in the outboard category.

    Cam

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