Washington bucks boat sales trend

SEATTLE – New boat sales in Washington State not only were up by double digits during the second quarter, compared to the same period of 2006, they were the strongest since the Northwest Marine Trade Association began collecting the data in July 2002, the association reported in a statement yesterday.

This is in stark contract to the larger U.S. boating industry, which is expected to see retail dollar sales declines of 12 percent and unit sales declines of 15 percent for the year.

The reasons behind the state’s success? “The economy remains relatively strong in our region,” said NMTA Communications Director John Thorburn in an interview yesterday. “Home sales have not fallen off like they have in other parts of the country. Another factor could be because we have a very popular Seattle Boat Show, which has enjoyed a rise in attendance in recent years while other shows have seen a decline. We’ve also had a regional Grow Boating program underway for four years now so that may have some impact.”

New boat sales by dealers were up 12.5 percent in units while total boat sales rose 8 percent during the quarter. The only segment of boat sales that decreased during the period was used boats sold by dealers, down 74 units or 4.5 percent. Total boat sales generated more than $326 million during the quarter – an increase of nearly 19 percent from 2006.

NMTA receives the sales data from Sea Grant program, which uses boat registrations from the Department of Licensing to compile the information. Since 2003 – the first year that NMTA received 2nd Quarter data – new boats sold by dealers have grown from 2,440 units to 3,432 in 2007.

“Boat sales in Washington continue to be strong,” said Thorburn. “In only four years time, new boat sales by dealers have increased more than 40 percent during the quarter.”

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