NMMA: New boat unit sales down, dollars up in Canada

The National Marine Manufacturer’s Association announced Tuesday the release of its annual Canadian Recreational Boating Statistical Abstract for 2015, which reveals the Canadian recreational marine industry remains steady as sales increase in certain categories and boater participation rises.

Overall, there were 38,000 new boats sold during 2015 with an estimated retail value of $2.1 billion. These figures represent a 5.4 percent decline in new unit sales and a 3.8 percent increase in retail dollar sales from 2014.

Canadians purchased 64,312 pre-owned boats in 2015 totaling $1.06 billion in retail dollar sales. These figures represent a 7 percent increase in unit sales and a 21.2 percent increase in dollars from 2014.

In addition, personal watercraft, including brands such as Jet Ski, SeaDoo and WaveRunner, experienced a sales surge in 2015 with unit sales of new personal watercraft jumping ten percent from 2014. The pre-owned category also experienced a strong increase in 2015, rising seven percent. What’s more, Canadians’ participation in recreational boating has remained stable at 43 percent of the adult population, up from 35 percent in 2011-2012, the last time it was recorded.

“The data confirm that recreational boating remains a significant part of the Canadian economy, delivering more than $3 billion in new and pre-owned retail sales, while providing us with insights on how we can continue to grow as an industry,” said Sara Anghel, executive director of NMMA Canada. “Pre-owned boats and personal watercraft tend to be points of entry for new boaters and with sales of these categories seeing healthy increases, alongside rising boater participation, this signals that boating continues to be an attractive recreational activity to Canadians.”

Boat sales

While there were declines in new boat sales across nearly all categories, sales of new personal watercraft units were up 10.5 percent. New boat unit sales declines were spread across nearly all provinces in 2015 except Manitoba, which saw a slight increase of 0.7 percent over 2014.

Meanwhile, in 2015, outboard engine unit sales increased in nearly all provinces/territories that had significant volume except Quebec (down 3.1 percent), Saskatchewan (down 9.6 percent), and the Northwest Territories (down 28.1 percent). The declines in these three parts of the country offset growth in others. Subsequently, national outboard engine sales were relatively unchanged from 2014 (both units and dollars down 0.1 percent).

“The decrease the industry saw in sales of new boat units in 2015 is estimated to largely be a result of the exchange rate, which currently favors Canadians buying recreational boats in the U.S.,” noted Anghel. “Despite any decreases, the increases we’re seeing in entry point categories and participation, combined with Canada’s immense access to water and Canadians’ passion for the outdoors, boating remains a top recreational activity, attracting people from all parts of the country.”

Boating participation and boater demographics

It is estimated that 43 percent of Canadian adults went boating at least once during 2015, which translates to 12.4 million boaters.

The data also revealed that compared to non-boaters, current boating participants tend to be married, have children living at home, a combined household income of less than $100,000, be university educated, and work full time.

NMMA reports that 75 percent of boaters had some post-secondary education (compared to 69 percent of non-boaters), 68 percent were employed at least part-time (compared to 56 percent of non-boaters) and 62 percent were married (compared to 54 percent of non-boaters). Additionally, 59 percent of boaters have combined household incomes of less than $100,000.

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