Wes Johnson, Springfield News-Leader Published 10:00 p.m. CT Jan. 12, 2020
Mark your calendar for Friday, March 20.
That’s the first day of spring, and warming weather will mean Missouri’s boating season won’t be far away.
And it means many Missourians will be in the market for a new or used boat to enjoy the state’s numerous waterways. There are 289,854 registered boats in Missouri, and boating continues to be big business in the Show Me State, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association.
NMMA data shows that Missouri’s sale of new and used boats and related boating equipment ranked 17th in the country in 2018 (the most recent data available), with sales worth $468.49 million.
That topped a trend in Missouri, with boat sales steadily increasing from previous years:
- 2017 – $444,669,182
- 2016 – $403,122,607
- 2015 – $359,747,765
- 2014 – $321,469,055
- 2013 – $290,671,871
- 2012 – $295,735,681
The strong sales numbers are no surprise for Greg Mustain, owner of The Ski Shack in Springfield, which sells wakeboard, wakesurfing and pontoon boats. The Ski Shack also has locations in Shell Knob and Indian Point on Table Rock Lake.
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“We still think 2020 will be positive for us. We had a record year in 2019,” Mustain said. “Our sales were up 11.2 percent from the year before. We’re looking forward to a good economy, especially with the financing companies that work with us.”
If there’s a trend in new 2020 boats, Mustain said it’s that manufacturers are adding more powerful engines and more electronics to all categories of boats he sells.
“We’ve got pontoon boats that will do 50 miles per hour comfortably on the water,” he said.
Prices for wakeboard boats continue to rise, but he said that’s driven by customer demand. An entry-level wakeboard at The Ski Shack starts at about $80,000, with top-end boats selling for $250,000.
“Malibu just came out with a brand new one that we just sold for north of $200,000,” Mustain said. “We’re in a kind of a lull right now (in the middle of winter) but when the boat shows start up, you’ll see a lot of interest pick up in new boats.”
According to NMMA, boating directly and indirectly supported 16,420 jobs in Missouri, and there were 673 boating-related businesses in Missouri in 2018 (the latest available numbers for the state), according to NMMA.
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With the stock market setting records through 2019, NMMA said retail sales of new powerboats nationwide last year held steady at approximately 280,000 boats, the second highest total since 2007. Final boat sales numbers are still being tallied.
2020 retail powerboat sales
NMMA predicts new powerboat sales in 2020 to be up as much as 2 percent.
“Sales in 2019 were nearly on par with the 11-year high we saw in 2018, even with some softening particularly in the freshwater fishing category, which we attribute to unseasonably cold and rainy weather in spring and early summer,” said Frank Hugelmeyer, NMMA president. “Looking at 2020, with the economy on solid footing and key economic indicators like consumer spending remaining strong, we expect another healthy year for new boat sales, which could be up as much as 2 percent.”
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Here’s a closer look at powerboat sales by category in 2019:
- New personal watercraft sales are estimated to be up 6 percent to 73,000 units in 2019. Personal watercraft typically cost less than larger boats and are often considered a gateway to boat ownership.
- Sales of new wake sport boats — popular for wakesurfing and wakeboarding and attractive to new and younger boaters — are estimated to be up 6 percent to 11,000 units in 2019.
- New cruiser sales — boats between 22 and 32 feet, popular for relaxing, entertaining and ‘cruising’ — are estimated to be up 3 percent to 9,000 units in 2019.
One surprise: Freshwater fishing boat sales are estimated to have dipped 7 percent to 69,000 units in 2019. That’s likely due to extreme rain and extended spring flooding in 2019 in the Midwest.
Recreational boating by the numbers
According to NMMA:
- Annual U.S. sales of boats, marine products and services are estimated to total $42 billion in 2019, up slightly from 2018.
- Leading the nation in sales of new powerboats, engines, trailers and accessories in 2018 were the following 10 states (2019 estimates available in the spring):
- Florida: $3.2 billion, up 8 percent from 2017
- Texas: $1.8 billion, up 9 percent from 2017
- Michigan: $1.1 billion, up 10 percent from 2017
- North Carolina: $914 million, up 9 percent from 2017
- Minnesota: $861 million, up 6 percent from 2017
- Wisconsin: $781 million, up 9 percent from 2017
- New York: $775 million, up 5 percent from 2017
- California: $765 million, up 6 percent from 2017
- Georgia: $680 million, up 8 percent from 2017
- South Carolina: $661 million, up 4 percent from 2017
- There were an estimated 11.9 million boats registered and documented in the U.S. in 2019, relatively unchanged from 2018.
- Ninety-five percent of boats on the water (powerboats, personal watercraft and sailboats) in the U.S. are small in size, measuring less than 26 feet in length — boats that can be trailered by a vehicle to local waterways.
- Sixty-two percent of boat owners have a household income less than $100,000.
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