Solid sales, good crowds at Palm Beach show

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033010PBBS02Following a trend with several recent boat shows, optimism was on the rise at the Palm Beach International Boat Show, which was held March 25-28 in West Palm Beach, Fla.

Chuck Cashman, regional president of MarineMax East Florida, said the dealer sold a 47-foot Azimut and a 34-foot Meridian to new buyers at the show.

“We thought the smaller fishing boats such as the Boston Whalers and the Sea Rays would sell, so this was a surprise,” said Cashman. “We had good traffic and it was encouraging to see new buyers.”

Andrew Doole, senior vice president and COO of show organizer Show Management, said the event exceeded his expectations.

“It went extremely well. The weather cooperated and we had tremendous crowds,” said Doole. “We had a lot of fly-in traffic. I think some people from the Northeast, who couldn’t make it down to the Miami show because they were snowed in, flew down to our show, so we definitely benefited from that.”

Show Management CEO Skip Zimbalist said attendance was up 3 percent from last year, and boats on display were up 3 to 4 percent.

“We’re really thrilled, considering we were budgeting the attendance would be down about 15 percent,” said Zimbalist. “We couldn’t be happier.”

Presale online tickets were up 5 percent and overall exhibitors were up 20 percent compared to last year, according to show officials. Zimbalist said the show also benefited from a recent $30 million renovation of the city’s waterfront.

“From the attendee point of view, this is the most beautiful show in the country, bar none,” said Zimbalist. “It’s a great combination of big and small boats and, unlike the larger shows in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, it is much more manageable because everything is all in one place and in one setting.”

MarineMax’s Cashman said it was good to meet some new faces along with returning customers, and he senses the market is slowly turning up.

“There is definitely a sizeable portion of the population that has been deferring a major purchase for a long time,” he said. “People are realizing their kids aren’t getting any younger, they’re not getting any younger, so maybe the time is finally right to get that boat.”

Hacker Boat Company, of Silver Bay, N.Y., exhibited for the first time, and sales manager Dan Gilman said it was a good decision.

“We have several potential clients very interested in buying a boat, which is exceptional, especially considering that Hacker-Crafts are the premier wooden motorboat and sell for $150,000 to $180,000,” he said. “We will be back next year.”

Kevin Callahan, sales and construction manager of Moran Yacht & Ship, which specializes in megayachts and displayed five 100-plus-footers, said the company came away with several strong leads.

“The buyers are coming out of their shell again. … We’ve definitely turned the corner,” Callahan said.

— Elizabeth Ellis


5 comments on “Solid sales, good crowds at Palm Beach show

  1. Realist

    Although it was a fine event, I must have been at a different show.
    There were numerous long time vendors missing like Interlux.
    The Rampage dealer that brought 6 boats in the past brought 1.  The Grady White dealer that brought 14 boats in the past brought 2.  Several engine companies who displayed in the past were missing.
    There was a significant increase in the number of large yachts on display due to the fact that people are trying to get rid of them.
    I think it was a great show and I hope the venders did ok but this “everything is rosie and better than last year” atitude is misleading  The setting was perfect, the weather was good and there was plenty of Beef Jerkey, wonder tools and snake oil.
    Quality marine vendors, not so much.

  2. Mr Exhibitor

    I had a gentleman standing in front of my booth and I asked him if he was interested in my product. He said he had no interest at all!! I then asked him what kind of a boat he owned. He said he did not own a boat !! I then asked him why he came to the boat show. He said -“I received two free tickets in the mail and a free parking pass” Thats when I realized that the reason there were so many disinterested unqualified people walking the show, was because they mailed out free tickets to just about everyone in the county. No wonder attendence was up —Ha !!!

  3. 10smantoo

    I myself received a free ticket and parking pass and wondered why so I asked the management staff (thanked them) and was then told that there were a limited amount sent to residents of Palm Beach Island and some waterfront communities south of the show. Made sense to me. Not sure why Mr. Exhibitor would think that “everyone got free tickets” . When I walked into the show, I must have seen 100 people on line at the time with money in their hands buying tickets..I’m not a boater, but appreciated the rest of the stuff there and picked up a nice piece of art. I found it to be a nice time. Much better than the indoor boat shows I had been to in NY.If I don’t get a free ticket next year, I think I’d pay to get in anyway..It was a nice event.  I also thought, that if you were in the market for a boat, that was the place to be..

  4. RLM

    This is a good show.  The site is wonderful, the docks are first class and the area is clean!  Parking is plentiful.  The weather was warm with occasional rain that is almost a welcomed feature.   There is a carnival like atmosphere with the on shore displays and food vendors and the open air bars are so typically “Florida”.  The guests are upbeat.
    If you are not a boater there is reason to visit and learn and enjoy what the show has to offer.  If you already own your boat there are enough reasons to come and learn without the necessity of buying another.
    There was a lot of prior years product available at reduced prices; a buyers dream, if you had cash.  New 2011 tagged product was on display  (Tiara) indicating an uptick in their optimism.  With so much used and dealer inventory, there needs to be a  substantial reason to choose new production line product over the price savings.
    There was some representation from Custom Builders (CR Hood) with a focus on the true needs of the buyer as oppposed to the wishes of the factory crew in the generally accepted affordable price category. (Less than $1,000,000.00) The overall ‘feel’ of what was available left room for the warmth generated by the fine woodwork and finishing that has always been associated with boating.  A good question to ask;  Are todays buyers interested in the ‘heirloom” quality of their purchase or are they just looking for something with more utility and function?  The show organizers could spend some time thinking about how to acknowledge those builders with that fine craftsmanship edge and achieve a balance between production and custom.  A show, after all, is a focus on what is available from the total industry, not just what needs to be sold at all cost.  Maybe we have  lost sight in these tough times.

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