The return of confidence

Posted on Written by Richard Armstrong
Miami International Boat Show exhibitors say the number of serious buyers was up at the Sea Island Marina in-water display and the show's other venues.

Miami International Boat Show exhibitors say the number of serious buyers was up at the Sea Island Marina in-water display and the show’s other venues.

Despite a 6 percent decline in attendance — largely attributed to an ill-timed snowstorm that forced flight cancellations at airports in northern cities — the 2014 Progressive Insurance Miami International Boat Show was deemed a triumph by organizers and exhibitors.

“We gauge the success of the show by the success of our exhibitors, and we continue to hear extremely strong reports on boat sales from the show this year, along with strong closings post-show, as well,” show manager Cathy Rick-Joule says. “Some of our exhibitors had their best show in a decade.”

The National Marine Manufacturers Association, which produces the five-day February show, tallied a drop in foot traffic from 102,118 in 2013 to 94,980. Visitors could check out the 2,690 boats and 2,034 exhibitors at this year’s show across its three locations — the Miami Beach Convention Center, Sea Isle Marina and Miamarina at Bayside.

Sales reports were on the plus side despite the lighter traffic, says Rick-Joule, convincing her that serious Northern buyers seemed to have found a way to make it to the Miami sunshine.

“The mood is very upbeat and there’s a renewed sense of confidence in where the industry is right now,” she says. “Sales reports are much stronger than what we have heard in the past five or six years across the board. We have seen a collective attendance increase of about 10 percent in our winter shows to date.”

Exhibitors and potential buyers were drawn to new technology and innovation in their search for a new boat.

Exhibitors and potential buyers were drawn to new technology and innovation in their search for a new boat.

She noted “great success” through the show’s International Buyers Program, which was created last year to attract more customers from abroad.

“We registered more than 200 buyers from 22 different countries around the globe through our matchmaking program,” Rick-Joule says. That’s up from 56 registered buyers from four countries at the 2013 show.

Domestically, Regulator president Joan Maxwell acknowledged missing some customers from the North, but she was pleased with the amount of people from the South and internationally.

“While traffic was down, the quality of the decision-maker was better than ever,” she says. “People came ready to buy boats and — combined with our new-product releases and increased consumer confidence overall — our sales and leads at the show were much improved over 2013.”

Maxwell says sales were focused on Regulator’s mid- and upper-size models, including “a lot of interest in the new 23 and 25 introduced this year. We also had a 34 in the water at the Sea Isle Marina as part of the Yamaha in-water display.”

Maxwell is equally optimistic about the coming months and years.

“Overall, I think the industry is improving — not just Regulator,” she says. “The customers we encountered were upbeat and more positive about purchasing a new boat. We are looking forward to concluding 2014 with better-than-forecast sales.”

Boston Whaler showcased its 345 Conquest, introduced last fall at the Fort Lauderdale show, which drew “a number of” retail contracts, according to Jeff Vaughn, vice president of sales, marketing and customer service. Sales were made across numerous models in the Whaler line, with the 30-foot-plus segment especially popular, he says.

Whaler also announced the development of its largest boat ever, the 420 Outrage, which will debut at the Fort Lauderdale show in October.

Noting that overall unit sales were flat in 2013, Vaughn says sales were “up more than 10 percent” for the January and February boat shows.

“The fiberglass outboard market continues to draw interest from experienced boaters, as well as those coming back to boating after some lapse,” he says.

Sea Ray displayed 27 boats at three locations: the convention center, Sea Isle Marina and its large boats along Collins Avenue at the Yacht & Brokerage show.

Seventeen Sea Rays were in the convention center and two were in the water for sea trials at Sea Isle Marina (the 510 Fly and 350 DA).

“Sales at Sea Ray’s land-based display at the Miami International Boat Show were led by the 350 SLX, the brand’s largest dayboat offering,” says Matt Guilford, vice president of marketing.

“Our experience at the Miami shows was very positive for both our brands — Carver and Marquis,” says Dick Nocenti, marketing director at Marquis Yachts. J&D Acquisitions owns Marquis and Carver Yachts.

The Carver boats (the C34, C40 and the new C37) were on display at the convention center.

“People seemed to be specifically interested in new models that represented the pricing value provided by the application of new boatbuilding technology,” Nocenti says. “We had people asking about what joystick technology we utilized and about resin infusion. It was obvious that people were not just looking for a new boat, but rather a new boat that utilized all the new advancements in boatbuilding, propulsion control systems and navigation electronics.”

Pursuit Boats’ eight-boat display during the Miami International Boat Show featured offshore, sport coupe, center console, dual console and sport tender models from 26 to 38 feet. By show’s end, Pursuit said it had exceeded 2013 sales by more than 30 percent.

“The most encouraging sign of the growth in sales was that the increase was felt across the entire product line, from 23 to 38 feet, resulting in sales of some models not even displayed during the show,” says David Glenn, marketing director at S2 Yachts, which owns Pursuit and Tiara Yachts.

Redesigned and re-engineered boat lines, along with innovations and new technology, are driving the builder’s success, Glenn says. A new DC 325 is set to debut in April — a big sister to the successful launch of its Dual Console 265. The Pursuit SC 365i that was introduced at the 2013 Miami show also has driven sales, he says.

“I think the industry is gaining some momentum, and Pursuit and Tiara are exceeding the growth by designing great new products and exceeding retail market expectations,” Glenn says.

Also linking success to innovation and new features is SeaVee Boats. The Miami builder recently launched a fleet of stepped-hull center consoles — the 390Z, 340Z and 320Z. The 390Z was unveiled in Fort Lauderdale last fall, and the 340Z at Miami. The third boat will hit the market in the spring.

SeaVee sold 20 boats at the show, a strong follow-up to 22 sold at the Fort Lauderdale show, according to company president Ariel Pared.

“We did really well in Miami — considerably better than last year and pretty close to Lauderdale, and we had a phenomenal Lauderdale show,” Pared says. “At Lauderdale, more than a dozen of [the sold boats] were the new 390Z with stepped-hull design.”

In Miami, SeaVee saw demand for all boats, including standard prismatic hulls and the new twin stepped Z models, albeit demand was higher for the new Zs.

The stepped-hull boats should become the builder’s lead seller by this time next year, Pared says.

The rollout of the stepped hulls has developed in three phases, SeaVee marketing director John Caballero says. “The first step was, ‘What’s the big deal about a stepped boat?’ ” he says. “The second phase was, ‘Is it true what they’re claiming?’ The third was, ‘Yes, it is true what they are claiming and this is really a unique product.”

The steps in the hull increase fuel efficiency and improve overall performance, the company says.

“It was a great show for Regal — sales, leads and traffic were all up,” marketing manager Paul Kuck says. “Part of this was due to our increased booth size and the fact that we brought 15 Regal models, from our 1900ES to the 53 Sport Coupe, which generated a lot of buzz.”

This article originally appeared in the April 2014 issue.

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