New boat sales for the average dealer tracked by Spader Business Management were down 47% in the first quarter vs. 2008, the company reports. Sales dropped from $1,083,738 to $574,357, with pre-owned boat sales down only 2.3%, Boating Industry reported today (May 1) on its  boating-industry.com website.

Spader, a training and consulting firm based in Sioux Falls, S.D., tracks North American marine and RV dealers.

New boat inventory levels were down a little more than 14% for the first three months of the year ending March 31 – from $3,8 to $3,2 million. Spader reported used boat inventories were up 23.8% to $453,918 in the first quarter, resulting in a total inventory decline of 11%. 

Total dealership sales fell 36.1% compared to Q1 2008. F&I revenue fell 53.8% and service revenues dropped 19.4% for the month, while parts and accessories sales were down 15.1%, marina revenues dipped 0.9% and other department sales slipped 58.5%.

Total dealership gross margins rose 3.5% because, with boat sales down, a greater percentage of revenue is coming from higher margin areas, Spader explained. The average dealer reported a significant increase – 5% — in gross margin on parts andaccessories. New boat gross margins edged down 1.2% vs. last year. 

Spending, in turn, was down by more than 20% in terms of dollars spent. However, as a percentage of gross margin, the average dealer spent more in the first three months of 2009. Personnel expenses, floor plan interest expense and fixed expenses were all up in terms of the percentage of gross margin spent on those items. 

The average dealer reported a net loss of $127,013 for the first quarter of ’09 – 10% more than the average net loss of $114,808 for the first quarter of 2008.