Will Miami catch the wave?

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14_miami_01Exhibitors at the marquee boat show can’t wait to greet consumers who seem ready to spend

With many recent boat shows reporting upticks in attendance and leads, exhibitors and organizers of the Miami International Boat Show have every reason to think the 2011 event should meet or exceed expectations.

“Leading into the boat show season, and particularly the Miami International Boat Show, Nautic Global Group is feeling optimistic about the new year,” explains Steve Tadd, the company’s marketing director. “[We] look at the Miami International Boat Show as our industry’s most important gathering of trade representatives, including suppliers, dealers, international prospective dealers, media and associations. A lot of business will be conducted at the show.”

14_miami_02The 70th annual boat show runs Feb. 17-21 at the Miami Beach Convention Center and Sea Isle Marina & Yachting Center. Running concurrently is the 26th annual Strictly Sail Miami show at Miamarina at Bayside, which like the main show is produced by the National Marine Manufacturers Association. Also taking place on those dates, along Collins Avenue, is the 23rd annual Miami Yacht & Brokerage Show, which is produced by Show Management.

“We’re feeling pretty optimistic. Some of this Christmas [retail] news obviously has helped everyone feel a little more encouraged that people are going to actually start getting some money out of their wallets,” says show manager Cathy Rick-Joule, vice president of Southern shows for the NMMA.

Rick-Joule says the number of exhibitors should at least equal last year’s total, when 1,970 took part. And e-ticket sales, about two weeks in, were running about 27 percent ahead of the previous year. Last year, 91,415 people attended the show, and hopes are that more than 100,000 will come out this year.

Rick-Joule says positive news coming out of the fall shows always bodes well for Miami.

“Even though Fort Lauderdale is a competitor of ours, we always hope that they have a good show because if they have a good show it resounds well for us,” she says. “Once that show had passed, we started getting another wave of exhibitors calling, looking for space. So that always helps us.”

Exhibitors’ thoughts

Those who spoke with Soundings Trade Only say they are looking forward to Miami and expect a successful show. “Miami is a buying show for us,” explains Jeff Druek, president and CEO of Outer Reef Yachts, which plans to exhibit two 65-foot motoryachts at Sea Isle. “Lauderdale is sort of the first big show of the season. People are just getting their feet wet and they’re sticking their toe in the water, saying, ‘OK, it’s buying season.’ Typically, by Miami they’re tuned up and they’re ready to do something.”

Druek says his company previously exhibited on Collins Avenue, but will be back at the marina this year. “I found that the Sea Isle Marina has turned out to be a better venue for us,” he says. “It’s a little bit more in the thick of my competition. I think we have a better boat. Why not be with your competition and show why you’re better?”

Regal Marine, too, is looking for a strong show. “We have some pretty high expectations,” says marketing manager Mark Kellum. “We are seeing a growing trend at boat shows in general. People are using boat shows more as another research tool before determining which make and model to purchase. The gestation period from first contact with a potential customer to the final decision to buy is growing much longer.

“Therefore, although we anticipate sales at the Miami boat show, we have an overall strategy of capturing qualified leads and nurturing those leads with dealer and factory follow-up,” he adds. Regal plans to showcase a mix of about nine models in-water and in the convention center.

Nautic Group’s Tadd says this is the first year his company is bringing all of its product lines – Rinker, Hurricane, Godfrey and Polar Kraft – to the show. Historically, only Rinker and Hurricane were represented in Miami. “It is a large investment for our company and one that we approach strategically,” he says. “We look at Miami not only as an important selling show, but also as an opportunity to showcase our products to … dealers in North America and internationally.”

18_miami_03Regulator Marine plans to have three dealers participating in the show and will be showcasing three boats – the 24, 28 and 32. “Our space is larger this year and we are in a better location within the hall. We anticipate a good show,” says company president Joan Maxwell. “We have been pleasantly surprised to see retail activity during this time of year, especially in the Northeast. We are certainly producing at a lower rate than we were three years ago, but our dealers seem to be gaining more confidence as well and have placed orders for spring delivery.”

Druek, from Outer Reef, also says business has been brisk. “We’ve had a pretty good year, actually,” he says, noting that international orders right now account for about 50 percent of the company’s order book. “In general, in the United States, I see a marked difference in the optimism and people looking now to move forward and make purchases.

“On top of that, a lot of the inventory that has been out there, by virtue of foreclosures and things of that nature, that’s sort of getting washed out now,” Druek adds.

Strictly Sail, Yacht & Brokerage

The big news for Strictly Sail Miami is that the show is returning to its traditional landscape of an all-sail environment at Miamarina at Bayside. Strictly Sail Miami made a temporary move in 2010 to Sea Isle Marina, co-locating with the in-water power portion of the Miami show.

“The move back to Bayside has been very well received by both boat exhibitors and booth exhibitors and there’s been a swell of people calling, wanting to get back into the show,” show manager Kevin Murphy says. “We are completely sold out in the main tent and [as of six weeks out] have just a handful of booths left over in the sidewalk and secondary tent.”

This year’s show will feature 65 to 70 boats, “which is right where we want to be, considering the current business cycle,” Murphy says. “The most we’ve ever had is 125 boats in the show, and I think 65 to 70 is a good number for this year.” In 2010, there were 46 boats.

“Things are starting to improve in the industry,” he says. “The economy’s getting a little bit better. People are starting to come out and spend money again, so exhibitors are starting to display boats and display products again. I think we’re going to continue to grow slowly over the next few years.”

Andrew Doole, senior vice president and general manager at Show Management, also is optimistic heading into the Yacht & Brokerage Show. “We’ve gotten a lot of interest from new-boat exhibitors and also the same brokerage customers that have been with us – some of them for 20 years now. The larger brokerage firms in the U.S. are all exhibiting and have all committed to the same space or more than last year,” he says. “We’re pretty bullish, I guess you could say, at the moment. Things look good.”

Doole expects between 400 and 500 boats in this year’s show, which is comparable to last year. The brokerage is mostly domestic, he says, but new boats are split between international and domestic, with Italy, the United States and China among the biggest exhibitors.

For more on the Miami International Boat Show and Strictly Sail Miami, go to www.miamiboatshow.com. For more on the Yacht & Brokerage Show, go to www.showmanagement.com.

This article originally appeared in the February 2011 issue.

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