MDCE 2013: Walkthrough shows event’s fast growth

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ORLANDO, Fla. — After two days of walking the Orange County Convention Center floor at the Marine Dealer Conference & Expo, a consensus of opinion begins to emerge from this reporter’s sampling of the more than 1,000 conferees.

• The educational track sessions are hugely popular, so much so that the convention center floor gets quiet each time a new session begins, leaving the approximately 100 exhibitors largely to talk among themselves.

“The educational seminars here are dynamic,” said Larry Russo, president and CEO of Russo Marine in Boston. “The presenters are all excellent and they’re all well-attended.”

Numerous dealers and others ranked the educational sessions as one of the primary reasons they came.

• MDCE has come a long way in a short time in becoming a must-attend event for dealers.

Matt Gruhn, president of co-sponsor the Marine Retailers Association of America, documented the rise at Tuesday’s luncheon with attendance figures from the past seven dealer conferences: 97 in 2007; 198 in 2008; 431 in 2009; 740 in 2010; 950 in 2011; 1,000 in 2012; and 1,100 this year.

MDCE registered more than 600 dealers for the first time this year.

“I’m proud of 600, but I want 1,000 dealers here,” Gruhn said.

• Led by the educational track sessions, MDCE is improving as a resource of information and ideas.

“This is such a great shot in the arm,” said Fred Pace, managing partner at Legendary Marine in Destin, Fla. “The speakers seem to only get better and we get a great deal of content we can take back to our dealership.”

Brunswick Boat Group has more than 100 dealers at this year’s MDCE, said president Andy Graves.

“It’s great to see them investing in the resource in an effort to make their dealerships better,” he said.

• More than ever, MDCE is a valuable networking resource.

“It’s the networking event if you’re in any kind of marine retail,” said Lynn Fiorenzano, president of Silver Spring Marine in Wakefield, R.I.

“I make a point of talking to people I don’t know and sit at tables where I don’t know anybody,” said Joe Lewis, general manager of Mount Dora Boating Center in Florida. “This show gives you an opportunity to talk to your peers from across the country.”

Like others at the event, Lewis said that during his discussions he senses that “the mood is very upbeat. Everyone seems positive about the trajectory of the market.”

— Rich Armstrong

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Comments

3 comments on “MDCE 2013: Walkthrough shows event’s fast growth

  1. Barb Caster

    I attended the MDCE for the first time as a distributor rep and a member of the Boating Industries Association of Upstate NY and it was a real eyeopener to what goes on in the background of our industry the conference sessions were very informative and even though i am not a dealer i can take back some of the skills i learned to my position with Morgan Recreation i attended a seminar that i wished every dealer i call on could have attended I would reccomend anyone who can possibly attend next year to do it!!!!

  2. Bentley Collins

    Barb I agree completely. I managed to get a few of my dealers to the event this year and they were all very pleased that they came. There is a,lot of very valuable content and you don’t need to be a frontline salesperson from a dealership to get a lot out of it. Great job to everyone from the MRAA

  3. Rhonda Corey-Myers

    It was an incredible opportunity in many aspects. The conference provided a chance to remain up to date on what is happening in the industry and to be present for new product announcements and launches. The seminars and speakers presented viable ideas and projects that can be implemented or modified to benefit most aspects of a marine/sales company. Best of all was the opportunity to network and have discussions with our industry colleagues- at boat shows and events we don’t often have the time for those casual discussions to share ideas and solutions with each other. Kudos to MRAA – our first time attending from Boston Yacht Sales (Michael Myers, Owner and Rhonda Corey-Myers, Business Development) but certainly not our last MDCE !

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