Best Miami show in many years

Posted on Written by Reagan Haynes

miamiExhibitors point to hefty increases in sales; Brunswick says its brands enjoyed ‘phenomenal’ success

Attendance at the Progressive Insurance Miami International Boat Show and Strictly Sail was up only slightly, but several exhibitors say they had double-digit improvement in sales from last year’s Miami show.

“Our sales were up almost double from last year,” says Cobalt Boats sales and marketing vice president Gavan Hunt.

More than 2,000 companies showcased 3,000-plus boats at the Feb. 14-18 show, which is produced by the National Marine Manufacturers Association in three locations — the Miami Beach Convention Center, Sea Isle Marina and Miamarina Bayside. Attendance was up 1 percent, from 100,917 last year to 102,118 in 2013, according to NMMA spokeswoman Sarah Ryser. That figure includes attendance at the Strictly Sail portion of the show, which was 19,742, up 17 percent from 16,892 last year.

Of the three locations, the largest is the convention center, which has 2.5 million square feet of exhibition space that uses 1 million square feet of carpet, enough to cover 20 football fields, says show manager Cathy Rick-Joule. The New Yacht and Power Show at Sea Isle Marina showcases hundreds of boats in the water and is the site of hands-on classes presented by the Recreational Powerboating Association, as well as demo rides by various manufacturers. The third location, Strictly Sail Miami at Miamarina Bayside, features sailboats and sailing accessories, as well as live music and free sailboat rides.

miami2“You’ve got everything on display in Miami, from a $1,500 powerboat to a $20 million powerboat and sailboats, as well,” says NMMA president Thom Dammrich. “There’s every kind of boat, every make — it’s potentially the biggest collection of boats on display at any one time in the world.”

More sales and leads

Despite the turnout, several who displayed at one or more of the three locations say they were pleased with their results. “It’s the best Miami boat show we’ve had in a very long time,” says Peter Orlando, sales and marketing director at Florida-based EdgeWater Power Boats. “We hadn’t seen crowds like that since 2008.”

Hunt declined to give exact sales numbers but says Cobalt reaped the benefit of growing its footprint at the  show. “We increased our commitment of resources … and we were happy that we did,” he says. “Actually, 2013 looks like it may well be our best show season ever, overall.”

Contender Boats sales manager Mike Collins agrees it was the best Miami show in a long time, with excellent traffic all five days. “We took a dozen deposits, but more importantly, every one of our 16 dealers that worked the show has multiple deals they are working,” Collins says. “Every boat company I talked to was pleased with the show.”

Scout Boats founder and CEO Steve Potts is calling it the most successful Miami show the company has ever had. Orlando doesn’t like to quantify EdgeWater’s success or failure by how many deals are written at the show because, he says, only 5 percent of deals happen at shows and 65 percent are the result of what people saw at shows. “The feedback I’m getting back from dealers who were in Miami, who closed boats there and are following leads, is that most of those deals are sticking, and most of the leads are translating into sales,” Orlando says.

“We had a phenomenal Miami boat show,” says Brunswick Boat Group president Andy Graves. “We’re having great success with Boston Whaler, and the new models have been very well received.” The Dauntless line has “just been spectacular for us,” says Lenn Scholz, Boston Whaler product development director.

miami3Sea Ray’s 510 Sundancer, which was unveiled at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show and won a 2012 AIM Marine Group Editor’s Choice Award, also has done well; it is sold through the end of the model year, Graves says.

MarineMax sales were “up in double digits over last year,” says CEO William McGill. “I can tell that it’s better than it’s been in years.”

Dometic Marine also had a great show, says aftermarket sales vice president Ken Taranto. “People were interested in our products, and the feedback from all our dealers indicated they were taking orders. Boats are selling. I believe this was the strongest Miami show in over five or six years.”

Better crowds

The convention center seemed busier than in past years, says Pete Beauregard Jr., president of Michigan-based Colony Marine. Colony founder Pete Beauregard Sr. says this was the first Miami show in years where he has seen people lined up on a weekday to buy tickets to the show, which generates about $1 billion in economic activity for the area.

“I thought the people that walked into the booth were highly qualified,” Orlando says. “It was a good crowd all weekend. The Southeast has been so drastically affected by the economy and real estate, so it’s really good to see it starting to bounce back. Thursday was very busy; it seemed like a Friday or a Saturday. I talked with the guys after I’d left, and they said it was the busiest they’d seen in years.” The upbeat attitude was welcome in light of several years that “seemed like a funeral,” he says.

Scout Boats vice president Dave Wallace says the brand saw steady traffic throughout the show, “not just in our booth but all through the show and on the docks where we had in-water demo models.”

“We did fabulous,” says Mark Beaver, chief operating officer of Intrepid Powerboats. “February started out with some preshow interest, but man, that show was amazing. And ever since it ended, the phones have not stopped ringing. We finished off February with $10 million in sales, which blew us away. We’re hoping that March, which is off on a high note, will end up the same way. Sales are just frantic.”

Intrepid doesn’t break down a list of sales at the show, or even after the show, but Beaver guesses that about 17 contracts were signed at the show and about 13 more boats were sold afterward. “The new 375 Walkaround was really a hit with everyone, and it continues to generate sales,” Beaver says. “If they didn’t buy at the show and we schedule a demo, it’s pretty much a done deal.”

miami4Lines also backed up at the Strictly Sail entrance, despite some threatening clouds Friday. Some early rain didn’t dissuade customers in the Marlow-Hunter booth at Strictly Sail, where things were so busy before the storm that not one representative was available.

Not just for locals

Miami isn’t a typical boat show because more than 45 percent of the people who attend are from outside Florida, Orlando says. “We’re not seeing the European population that we did prior to the recession, but we’re seeing a lot of people primarily from Central and South America looking to buy.”

“We have people who come from more than 80 countries, and they come just to see what the marine industry has to show them,” Rick-Joule says. This year, the NMMA worked with the U.S. Commerce Department and six countries on an international buyer program to bring in qualified buyers from Japan, Turkey, Chile, Panama, Costa Rica and Brazil. “It’s a good way to bring solid buyers to the doors of the exhibitors.”

That reach is part of the reason Nautic Global Group makes such a large investment in the show, says spokesman Steve Tadd. Opportunities to educate a broad customer base about the company’s success are just as important as new product launches, he says. “It’s just as important for us to let people know how much Hurricane Deck Boats has grown over the last five years, doubling its market share of the deckboat market from 25 percent to around 50 percent, and how that segment has grown faster than any other fiberglass segment in recent years.”

This year’s show was the 72nd annual event. It is scheduled for Feb. 13-17 next year.

This article originally appeared in the April 2013 issue.

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