Boat sales explode during pandemic

Highland Lakes Watercraft in Kingsland is one of several area boat retailers that have reported increased boat sales and rentals during the coronavirus pandemic. Staff photo by Alex Copeland

Boat sales in Highland lakes are on the rise as holidaymakers turn to the water amid air travel restrictions and other hurdles from COVID-19. According to the National Marine Manufacturers Association, more than 70 percent of boat dealers nationwide have seen their sales increase.

“When things come up lately, they’re gone,” said Boat Zone manager Lou Holste in Burnet. “It doesn’t drag on. Every Friday since mid-March resembles July 4th.

Although Boat Zone doesn’t sell a lot of boats – mostly parts and accessories – sales have remained stable even after Labor Day.

“Usually at this time of year we become the Maytag repairman here – just watch the freeway and the traffic going by,” Holste said. “But between Memorial Day and July 4th, it’s been busy, busy, busy. It’s been like this since March.

Paige McGee, general manager of Highland Lakes Watercraft in Kingsland, agreed.

“Sales were great last season,” said McGee. “I think a lot of it was because of COVID. Many people left town and came to the lake.

The only time she saw such an increase was right after the 2018 floods, when everyone lost their units.

“Sales have gone down a bit (since Labor Day), but we’re already taking orders for next season,” McGee said. “We already have a long waiting list.

Second-hand boats are also in great demand. Used boat sales have jumped 74% this year, while new powerboats have jumped 30% from the same period last year.

The latest data shows cumulative personal watercraft sales in 2020 increased by 10%, saltwater fishing boat sales by 5%, and jet boat sales by 9% from a year ago.

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