Industry survey: Boat shows lead to sales

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Boat shows are one of the top influencers of boat-buying decisions – behind dealership experience and the Internet – according to the 2010 Boat Show Purchase Influence Report, based on a survey conducted by Foresight Research.

Foresight Research’s Ron Hein provided a detailed look at the report Tuesday during a webinar. The report is based on a survey of 3,295 buyers of new powerboats who purchased their boats between January 2009 and August 2010. The survey looked at eight powerboat segments, such as pontoon, aluminum fishing boats and cruisers, and divided participants into seven geographic regions.

Buyers said they attended an average of 1.8 boat shows before making their purchase, although that figure varies by type of boat purchased and region. Buyers of fiberglass fishing boats, for example, reported going to 2.7 shows. Radio, television and newspaper ads are the key ways consumers find out about shows.

Boat shows are a key influencer in the decision-making process because of consumers’ ability to compare prices and models, as well as being able to see and climb into the boats.

“This is kind of the one-two punch,” Hein said.

Most people who attend a show – 61 percent – got the information they needed at a show to make a buying decision, the research shows. The study found that 64 percent of people go to a show planning to visit the display of a brand they want to buy, although 36 percent came across the brand they ultimately purchased.

Consumers spent an average of 49 minutes at the display of the brand of boat they ultimately purchased.

There’s an average of 3.3 months from the time of the boat show until the time of purchase, Hein said.

“The boat show influence is not done after the first month or two,” he noted.

Most people travel about one hour to get to a boat show, although in some regions – such as the Mid-Atlantic – that time climbs to 2.3 hours on average.

The survey also looked at behaviors in the year prior to buying a boat and it found that 84 percent read information on the Internet, 75 percent received advice from others, 57 percent attended a boat show, 64 percent read a boating magazine or publication and 15 percent discussed boats on social media.

Hein noted that 41 percent of participants said they had attended a boat show as a child, showing the importance of creating a family environment at a show.

“It’s probably a good investment for the future,” he said.

The study was funded by a group of industry organizations led by the National Marine Manufacturers Association, including the Lake Erie Marine Trades Association, Michigan Boating Industries Association, Southern California Marine Association, Boating Trades Association of Houston, Southwest Florida Marine Industry Association and Show Management Inc.

NMMA members can download a free copy of the report by clicking here. Non-members can purchase it for $3,600 by contacting Hein at; (248) 608-1870, Ext. 18.

For help logging in to the members-only portions of the NMMA website, contact Bryan Welsh at or (312) 946-6276.


3 comments on “Industry survey: Boat shows lead to sales

  1. Julie Balzano

    At Enteprise Florida, we don’t consider traveling to exhibit at international boat shows to be a luxury but rather a necessity for any company serious about growing their export business. For this reason, we continue to offer Florida based businesses cost effective opportunities for exhibiting at overseas boat shows around the globe; including Dubai, Cannes, Korea and now Australia!
    By making the investment to travel and exhibit to target markets, you’re able to develop new relationships and nurture existing ones while gaining your own increased knowledge of the local customs and culture…all with the intended result of increased sales!

  2. Joe Smith

    Boat shows are too expensive for the return. If dealers would seriously analyize the floor space cost, employee cost, set up and tear down, moving of boats, all of the carpet, displays, lights, ramps etc they would be surprised at how much they invest. 2007 and before it made sense because you could actually get people financed and boats were selling but since then boat shows have been a loosing battle.
    If so many customers look at the internet and the dealer experience as the number 1 and 2 decissions of what boat they buy, why not spend half of your boat show budget on getting people to your store. Plus now they can not walk 10 feet down the aisle and listen to some salesperson that was hired to help at the boat show and tell the customer anything they want to hear just to sell a boat that later they regret because he told them that a 4 cylinder boat with 6 people in it will still pull a 200lb guy on a slalom ski out of the water with no problem
    What would be interesting if the dealers would tell the assocation putting on the show the actual number of boats each dealer sold so there would be some comparisons but since nobody whats to share that information it is hard to tell what really was sold.

  3. Michael Derrett

    A very interesting survey, although with a US perspective, should be more or less valid round the world and in the Gulf/Asia where my business Mike Derrett Marine operates. One should not forget the fact that Boat Shows have a multitude of roles for the trade, such as:
    1 – A platform to sign up orders, often already under negociation.
    2 – To create interest in your product and build a platform of enquiries for future sales.
    3 – To stimulate the market - create the boating life style hype!
    4 – To provide a PR, research and networking platform for the industry.
    In developing boating markets such as Asia linking the event to a ‘Boating Festival’ gets the public involved at an early stage…
    Mike Derrett

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