Record Boat Sales Lead to Historic Backlog

Customers continue to purchase new vessels before they come off the production line leading to record-breaking boat sales

B.O.A.T. usually stands for ‘break out another thousand,’ but boat buyers this year might not have that option. Sales in 2020 were historically high, leading to low inventory levels and increased delays.

Over 320,000 boats were sold in 2020, reports Soundings Trade Only Today. The sales represent a 12-year high, with segments of the industry reporting increases of between 8 and 22 percent. “New-boat sales continued to be elevated through the latter part of 2020, up 40 percent September through December from 2019—an indication that consumers are snatching up boats as soon as they’re coming off the production line,” says National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) director of business intelligence Vicky Yu. “This heightened demand for new boats amounted to a record year in sales for the recreational boating industry as Americans sought ways to spend time on the water with their loved ones.”

If you’re looking to splash a new boat in the water, you may be waiting as current inventory levels are tracking 20 to 60 percent below what they usually are. “Boatbuilders are shipping approximately 20,000 new boats monthly and operating at 13 percent above normal levels to restock anemic inventories ahead of peak selling season,” Yu says. “Continued supply chain disruption and workforce issues, combined with an average order backlog of up to six months, will challenge manufacturers to keep up with new orders through at least 2021. We expect production levels to ebb and flow this year as manufacturers work to get back up to speed and supplier deliveries stabilize. A lot will depend on what type of buying activity we see this spring and summer as things start to open up.”

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Boat sales skyrocketed last year during the coronavirus pandemic as more Americans turned to the lifestyle amid more flexible work environments that allowed people to spend extra time enjoying the outdoors. The number of first-time boat buyers rose for the first time in over 10 years, up 10 percent from 2019. Among these new boat buyers, the average age has also decreased for the first time in 20 years.