A brighter mood in the Florida sun

Posted on Written by Reagan Haynes

16_fl_01Optimism in the industry, Miami’s reputation as a new-boat showcase lend energy as the show nears

This year’s Miami International Boat Show comes at one of the more optimistic times in the boating business since the economy turned sour in 2008.

The industry is buzzing about the prospects for the Feb. 14-18 show, one of the premier events for unveiling new product. Sponsored by Progressive Insurance, the show draws 100,000 visitors from around the world and generates about $1 billion for the local economy, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association, which owns and produces the show.

“There are probably more boats on display in Miami than any other boat show in the world,” says NMMA president Thom Dammrich. Some 2,000 companies will be showcasing more than 3,000 boats at three locations. And that doesn’t include the Yacht & Brokerage Show in Miami Beach, which is produced and managed by Show Management and runs concurrently with the NMMA show (see story on Page 18).

“Basically, Miami is a launching pad for new product for a lot of manufacturers,” says Dammrich. “And this year there will probably be more new-model introductions than we’ve seen in years. The whole show — just the energy in the show — is exciting.”

16_fl_02“The big news out of the Miami show is always the new product,” agrees Cathy Rick-Joule, the NMMA’s vice president for boat shows. “It’s one of the things Miami’s so well-known for. People from over 80 countries come just to see what the marine industry has to show them.”

A ‘consistent’ show

Shelley Tubaugh, vice president of marketing for Grady-White Boats, says the overall mood among consumers is positive. “The boat shows we’ve already participated in are off to a very good start,” Tubaugh says. “The mood had the potential to be not very good because of everything that’s going on, but it seems people are looking forward to boating and springtime.”

Tubaugh says Grady-White will be unveiling a new model at the show, the largest in its category to date. “Miami does have a reputation for being a place where manufacturers can showcase a new product,” Tubaugh says. “There are a lot of consumers there, so you can get immediate feedback on new products, too. They can give you confirmation of your ideas along the way. Also, a lot of press are there, so you’re able to get some good publicity and get the word out on your new product. The show is very important in that manner as well.”

Miami also has remained more consistent than other shows since the economic downturn, Tubaugh says. “Miami has kept the strength of the venue,” he says. “The number of show-goers is more consistent, the number of displays by manufacturers is still consistent, and we feel it’s still a place where consumers do a lot of shopping. Though they may not make the purchase there and instead go home and buy from their local dealers, they do go shopping there. It’s a very important show. And Miami’s a great place to be in February.”

21_fl_01The NMMA attracted national attention with the latest batch of numbers, released at the New York Boat Show, which show boat sales rose 10 percent in the last year. Early NMMA projections are that the industry will be up an additional 5 to 10 percent in 2013.

“We are excited about the prospects of the Miami show,” says Gavan Hunt, vice president of sales and marketing at Cobalt Boats in Neodesha, Kan. “We are exhibiting in the [Miami Beach] Convention Center, where we have increased our space, and we are also pleased to have the opportunity to demonstrate two boats in the water at the Biscayne Bay Marriott — one in the Volvo Penta display, the other in the Mercury display.”

Hunt says several Cobalt dealers will be participating. The models available for test drives include a 296 powered by twin 8.2 Axius sterndrives with SeaCore and a 302 powered by twin Volvo V8-380s with Ocean Series.

Spread out

The Miami show occupies three locations — the largest the Miami Beach Convention Center, covering 2.5 million square feet, Rick-Joule says. “That’s our largest footprint, using all three levels, including the large parking lot — we encompass that, as well,” she says.

Although sales of exhibit space have been good, Rick-Joule says the idea that it’s hard to get a spot in the convention center isn’t true. “I’ve been managing the show about 18 years, and I’ve been with the NMMA for 25, and I can honestly say we have never sold every single inch of space,” she says. “We’ve been close but never sold out. There was a little bit of a fallacy that you could never get a space at the show, so don’t even try. You might not get the spot you want, but the second year you have more opportunity to get into a more favorable space. You kind of have to get in to gain a foothold.”

The New Yacht and Power Show segment of the show is located at Sea Isle Marina and includes hundreds of boats in the water. It’s also the site of several hands-on classes presented by the Recreational Powerboating Association.

The Discover Boating Puts You at the Helm program provides on-water powerboating classes, and hourly boating clinics are offered throughout the show, organizers say.

The show’s third location, Miamarina Bayside, is home to Strictly Sail Miami, which features sailboats and sailing accessories, as well as free sailboat rides and live music.

International appeal

The show brings nearly $1 billion to the region and employs 9,000 people at its peak period, Rick-Joule says. “The last study we had commissioned was in 2005, and the impact was just shy of a billion, at $816.9 million,” Rick-Joule says. “We have commissioned a new economic impact study that will be complete in May this year.”

The show also is getting an international boost this year through a partnership with the U.S. Department of Commerce. The show was chosen to be part of the department’s International Buyer Program Select, which was created to connect international business-to-business buyers with U.S. companies looking for sales opportunities.

The Commerce Department is working with outposts in six countries to recruit qualified buyers, Rick-Joule says. The countries are Japan, Turkey, Chile, Panama, Costa Rica and Brazil. “Part of what we do from a promotion perspective is we secure a hotel room with a particular rate, work with visitors on hospitality and set up appointments for them with manufacturers they’re interested in,” Rick-Joule says. “It’s almost like concierge on some level. It’s a good way to bring solid buyers to the doors of manufacturers. We’re really optimistic about it.”

U.S. manufacturers that are current NMMA members or exhibiting at the show can register their companies in the database of suppliers to confirm their interest in meeting with buyers. The NMMA is using a software program to efficiently connect the prescreened buyers with preapproved suppliers. “That’s just another way we’re making sure our exhibitors are getting the most bang for their buck,” Rick-Joule says.

This article originally appeared in the February 2013 issue.

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