2005 boat unit sales expected to be flat

CHICAGO and MIAMI – There is no doubt that Hurricane Katrina will have a lasting impact on the Gulf Coast’s marine industry. Despite this, U.S. boat sales for 2005 are not expected to be greatly impacted.

“The fourth quarter of the year is usually the slowest for boat sales, so if this had to happen, this is probably the best time of the year,” commented Thom Dammrich, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association, in a recent interview.

Dammrich predicts that “we will finish the year relatively flat in unit sales and up in dollar sales overall.”

Powerboat sales to be up?

As of July, powerboat sales appear to be up about 4 percent, compared to the same period of last year. That’s based on Info-Link’s July Bellwether Report.

“The rolling averages updated through July demonstrate that last month’s uptick was a solid sign of how things should shape up for the summer,” said Jesse Wells, director of Sales & Marketing at Info-Link. “With the exception of outboard boats, which seem to be holding steady for the time being, all other segments were up again in July, especially PWC’s.”

Like Dammrich, Wells doesn’t expect Katrina to have a major impact on the industry’s year-end results.

Not only had most boat sales for the year occurred by the time Katrina struck, Wells said most of the boats in Alabama and Mississippi are trailerable fishing boats located further inland and therefore were less likely to be damaged.

“In all likelihood, a disproportionate amount of the damage occurred to larger boats in the coastal areas,” he said. “The bigger the boat, the fewer there are.”

Therefore, Wells predicts that the impact of the hurricane on year-end totals “are going to be far less than the untrained eye might suspect.”

In fact, he doesn’t believe much will affect the growth trend in powerboat sales the industry has experienced this year.

“It’s hard to imagine anything happening in this time frame that would reverse the trend,” he concluded.

Info-Link’s July Bellwether Report is available in graph form at www.info-link.com/bellwetherreports.asp.

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