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New-boat sales surge in Missouri after sharp decline

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. –  Missourians are buying new boats in record numbers, fueling a rebound from a decline in 2009 and 2010.

The National Marine Manufacturers Association says new boat sales hit $339 million last year, after dropping below $200 million after the Great Recession. That’s a 9 percent increase in Missouri sales in one year and represents 5,900 new boats in the state, The Springfield News-Leader reported. The state now ranks 16th in the nation for the sale of new boats.

Thom Dammrich, president of the marine association, said the sale of new boats, marine products and services is up across the U.S. Those sales reached $36 billion nationwide in 2016, an increase of 3.2 percent from 2015. About 247,800 new powerboats were sold last year, up 6 percent from 2015.

Ed Thomas is typical of many new boat buyers. He has a second home on Table Rock Lake and has purchased progressively bigger boats in Springfield as his two children have grown. On Memorial Day, Thomas picked up his newest and biggest boat _ a sleek 25-foot, $16,000 Malibu inboard that’s specifically designed for wakeboarding and wake surfing _ at The Ski Shack.

“As our kids got older and bigger they wanted to do more,” Thomas said. “We’ve worked hard to create an environment where our kids want to be with us.”

A 16 percent increase in new sailboats last year was driven by a 23.4 percent increase in the “20 ft. or less” category. Used boats also sailed off lots and dealer slips last year, with 981,600 used boats valued at $9.2 billion, an increase of 2 percent from the year before.

“We think this trend is going to continue through 2018 and into 2019,” Dammrich said. “The economy is gining strength. Consumer confidence is 13 percent higher than it has been in recent years. New home sales are going up. All of these things correlate highly with new-boat sales.”

Hot sales also are growing for special-purpose boats designed for wakeboarding and wake surfing, as well as aluminum-hulled pontoon boats, he said.

Although the recession began in December 2007, boat sales hit the lowest point in 2009 and 2010. Ski Shack owner Greg Mustain said people had a “fear factor” caused by economic uncertainty and held off buying new boats during 2009-2010.

“It was almost impossible to sell a new boat back then,” he said. “But consumer confidence changed and the economic outlook is rosier than it was even a year ago.”

Optimism also reigns at the MarineMax dealership at Indian Point. General Manager Terry Perciful said he doesn’t expect to have trouble selling a luxury 40-foot yacht, noting that people at Table Rock are looking for comfort in their boats.

“People will keep their boat for two or three years, then move up to something bigger,” he said.

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Information from: Springfield News-Leader, http://www.news-leader.com