Interest rates buoy pleasure boat sales

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Sales of pleasure boats nationwide are on a modest upward trend according to a story in today’s Providence Business News.

The story quoted the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) as saying sales increased 1 percent and the dollar amount spent on boats increased 9.3 percent in 2003. The industry saw $16 billion in sales of new boats, engines and accessories.

NMMA believes a healthier economy, growing consumer confidence and low interest rates have all contributed to what has been a rosier outlook for the rest of 2004, the Business News said.

“As we look ahead, there is reason for optimism,” Thom Dammrich, president of the association, said in a recent speech quoted in the story. “After five years of decline, boating participation is on the rise again and we expect that trend to continue in 2004.”

Sales strong in Rhode Island

“Sales have been very good, in fact, surprisingly good given the cold winter,” said Pete Messier, co-owner of Boat World in Warwick. “And, I see a continuation of this good sales environment. The rates are expected to stay low for a long time.”

Messier had $16 million in sales in 2003, which included an 18-percent increase in the sales of larger, more expensive boats that “put us over the top,” the newspaper reported.

Throughout the nation, sales of pleasure boats are on a modest upward trend, the story said.

Larry Russo Sr., owner of two boat dealerships in Massachusetts and Russo Marine in Wakefield, R.I., said he sold 32 boats at the Providence Boat Show in January, an increase from the 12 sold in 2003.

“Sales and traffic were extraordinary,” he said. “When you consider that this was one of the coldest winters ever and the [New England] Patriots dominated a lot of attention, this was fantastic.”

Russo said his business sold 355 boats in 2003 and projects 400 to 425 in sales this year. He has also invested $5 million to update his Bedford, Mass., business and has ordered a $2.4-million, 65-foot pleasure boat that he wants to sell in the coming year.

Area boat businesses said they have also continued to reap the benefit of Rhode Island law that does away with an industry sales tax, the story said.

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