NMMA data shows significant industry growth

CHICAGO – The National Marine Manufacturers Association said its data indicates “significant growth” in the boating industry in 2004, and that the retail numbers for the first quarter are off to a “great start,” according to an NMMA press release this morning.

A 20.8-percent rise in wholesale dollar sales of all boats and a 19.8-percent gain in unit shipments in the first quarter of 2004, as compared to the same period the year before, were cited by the NMMA as a cause for optimism.

“The retail numbers for the first quarter are off to a great start compared to 2003,” NMMA reported.

For the first three months of 2004, retail powerboat sales were up 11 percent compared to the same period last year, and all segments showed positive gains for the first quarter. Inboard cruisers sales were up 20 percent, outboard boats were up 14 percent, jet-drive boats were up 32 percent, stern-drive boats were up 5 percent and personal watercraft were up 3 percent, the NMMA said.

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.

“A favorable economy, rising consumer sentiment and continued low interest rates are also playing important roles in attracting more people to boating,” said Thom Dammrich, NMMA president.

Retail expenditures fall

Retail expenditures on boating-related goods and services were approximately $30 billion in 2003, down 1 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.”

The NMMA also reported 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 trend toward bigger boats, with sales of outboard boats over 18 feet increasing 24 percent between 1997 and 2003, according to NMMA.

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).

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