Ohio boat dealers are looking for a rebound in 2014, and some are optimistic they’re seeing it.
The state posted $294 million in sales of boats and related goods last year, but that was down 14.2 percent from 2012, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association.
Part of the drop might have been because 2012 was a “big growth year,” with sales up almost 11 percent in Ohio from the year before, said association spokeswoman Sarah Ryser.
“We’re kind of in another growth period,” said Patty Ackers, a manager at Ask Powersports Superstore in Columbus, which sells personal watercraft such as Jet Skis. This year has been “ phenomenal. Even with the bad weather, it’s been really good.”
U.S. boating-related sales rose 3.2 percent to $36.7 billion in 2013, according to the marine association. Ohio, with the nation’s seventh-largest population, ranked 18th with sales of $294 million.
Sales at Buckeye Lake Marina were up last year and are on the right track again this year, said Tim Levacy, marina manager.
“In between a few of the snow (storms) we had, we got a little slow, but we’re (further) ahead at this point than we were last year,” Levacy said. “We’ve had a huge half of an April, and this May has been one of the biggest I’ve ever had.”
Buckeye Lake Marina’s bestsellers are pontoon boats, which range in price from $18,000 to $120,000 and offer more seating and a “more-comfortable ride” than some other boats, Levacy said.
The marina sells more than 100 pontoons each year, he said.
Outboard boats, a category that includes pontoons, were the most-popular new powerboats sold in 2013, according to the marine association.
Despite signs of a rebound, Levacy said the market remains soft in some areas.
“I’ve talked to other dealers, and it’s hit or miss whether they’re doing better or not,” he said.
Personal-watercraft sales also were up last year, growing 2 percent, according to the marine association. Prices range from $4,999 to $17,000, a range that fits more budgets.
“There’s a price point for everybody,” Ackers said. “They’re much, much easier for folks to maintain. The cost of ownership is very low.”
Ackers said her customers take their personal watercraft out “mostly in Ohio,” including Buckeye Lake, Deer Creek and the Ohio River, but sometimes also take them to the ocean.
“They might go to Florida on vacation and take their watercraft with them,” she said.
Lancaster resident Allen Wentz bought a pontoon boat from Buckeye Lake Marina two weeks ago to use at the family’s summer house nearby. He has noticed Buckeye Lake getting busier the past few years.
“We also had a boat on Lake Erie for a while,” he said. “I think more people have been buying boats at Buckeye Lake. … People are staying closer to their area.”
Todd Hammond, a 54-year-old Newark resident who also owns a home on Buckeye Lake, said he has noticed more people buying boats as well.
“Where we built, there’s new homes, so that has picked up, and along with that ... the people out here are also buying boats as well,” Hammond said.
Hammond bought a pontoon boat from Buckeye Lake Marina about three years ago.
“Three years ago, we bought a place down here at Buckeye Lake, so we needed a boat,” Hammond said. “(I) just like being on the water.
“Being able to go out on the weekends and the evening, it’s just a nice experience.”
By Liz Young - The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio (MCT)
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