The French Riviera on Collins Avenue

Posted on Written by Reagan Haynes

18_french_01The biggest-ever Yacht & Brokerage Show will bring a European flair to the Miami Beach waterway strip

The Yacht & Brokerage Show in Miami Beach is attracting more new boats this year — just one of the factors making it the biggest in its 25-year history.

That’s according to Efrem “Skip” Zimbalist III, chairman and CEO of Active Interest Media and its Show Management affiliate, which produces and manages the Feb. 14-18 event. “We’ll have more boats than ever before, which is great news,” Zimbalist said in mid-January.

Several OEMs are exhibiting for the first time, others are expanding their displays and some who had put the show on hold during tough times are coming back.

“We actually have a waiting list for the first time in a long time,” Zimbalist says. “We’re watching all the metrics, and we’re tracking well ahead of last year.”

The show, which is owned by the Florida Yacht Brokers Association and runs concurrently with the Miami International Boat Show, is nestled on a mile-long stretch of Collins Avenue between 41st and 51st streets in Miami Beach. Although it is separately owned and operated from its National Marine Manufacturers Association counterpart, consumers have come to see the two shows as one huge venue.

18_french_02“In general, everyone comes to this and doesn’t realize there are two shows going on at the same time,” says Dane Graziano, chief operating officer of Show Management. “Our working relationship with the NMMA is phenomenal. We’ve both got the same mission statement: to produce the best environment for our clients to sell their products and services.”

The two producers coordinate shuttles between the venues, so it’s easy for consumers to get to where they want to be (after waiting in some inevitable Miami Beach traffic), says Graziano. “Our relationship through the years has helped the yacht show and the industry,” he says. “If somebody has a bad experience, what we didn’t want is for there to be finger-pointing back and forth because all they’re going to remember is they had a bad experience in Miami.”

Plenty of buzz

Cautiously measured optimism has preceded many of the recent boat shows, but the energy surrounding the Miami shows goes beyond cautious.

“Grand Banks Yachts is heading into Miami on a continued upswing, with more sales and thriving interest in new Heritage models like the 54EU and 43EU,” brand and marketing manager David Hensel says. “We also have many customers coming to the show from across Florida and around the country to learn more about our forthcoming 50 Eastbay model, which will mark a big evolution for that series. Dealers and brokers are very excited, and I hope it’s a successful event for everyone in our industry.”

Beneteau is also expecting a good show, says Beneteau America president Laurent Fabre. “Our season started in September, and in December we were sold out for the year,” Fabre says. “In three months we had sold 12 months of product. We’ve been begging France to make more boats for America, and we did get a few. We know the boats we’ll have in Miami will be gone before the end of Miami.”

22_french_01Fabre says the voyage of the Swift Trawler 34 on the Great Loop generated a lot of attention for the brand. “We got so much press that everywhere we go, we have people who come to see the 34 that did that Great Loop,” Fabre says. “That’s really good. Now nobody is questioning that we are making powerboats, if a single-engine can do the Great Loop in four months.

“The cherry on the cake is that we will also have three Monte Carlos,” he says — the 65, 70 and 76. “It’s going to be a huge display.”

Sealine is another company that plans to capitalize on its recently established brand status at the Yacht & Brokerage Show, says general manager Tom Riemann. The British builder reintroduced the brand to the American market at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show in October, and Riemann says he’s looking forward to using product feedback from that show to unveil tweaked and new products in Miami Beach.

“For the SE38 and the SE42i, we’ve kind of tweaked the specs for U.S. boats, and I think these are going to be pretty spectacular,” he says. “I think we hit the right color palette with striking colors. We were brand new in the market in the fall, so now we’ve got some traction and customers, so it’s an exciting time for us.”

Riemann says consumers are bringing more optimism to the table. “We’re seeing it. We gauge the Internet leads and phone calls and inquiries, and the tone has definitely changed and that’s good,” he says. “So I think it’s going to be a great show season. I’ve been to several shows around the country — dealers are happy, the gates are pretty good, the customers excited — so I think we’re set for a good spring.”

Even travel agents are saying hotels are getting hard to come by, Zimbalist says. “The people at Identity Travel say it’s the busiest they’ve seen it in a long time, and that’s a combination of exhibitors and attendees,” Zimbalist says. “That wasn’t true last year or the year before.”

Despite the buzz, the market is still uneven, Zimbalist says. “It’s not universal,” he says. “The smaller end of the cruiser market — the 30- to 50-foot segment — is still struggling. The smaller boat market is on fire — the pontoon market, the outboard market — and the larger boat segment is very strong. So it’s either the boat that’s easily financed or the one where financing is not an issue that is still growing, and in many cases growing rapidly.”

Ambience

The Collins Avenue location is unique from other shows for a few reasons, Graziano says. First, it offers free admission. The tone is also unique because several of the barge displays built for specific OEMs do not have a path to or from other exhibits, so customers come in and out of their own private barges, Graziano says.

The venue itself is festive and looks almost like the French Riviera at night when the boats are lit up, Graziano says. “We have dozens of events that exhibitors are scheduling in the evening on boats and in displays,” Zimbalist agrees. “It’s a beautiful setting, there are great restaurants nearby, it’s easily accessible and many of the hotels are right across the street.”

Fabre appreciates the European flavor of the Yacht & Brokerage Show. “The convention center is very organized, so when you want to have your image come across in a specific way, Collins is offering a bit more freedom,” he says.

Exhibitors also are allowed to entertain after the 7 p.m. show close, which makes for a uniquely festive atmosphere, Graziano says. “There are various parties going on after show hours in the evenings,” he points out.

The traffic, a frequent headache that Show Management and the NMMA work very hard on minimizing, gets easier after 7 p.m., Fabre says. “After-hours events are something we need to consider,” Fabre says. “It’s a chance to highlight and show our boats at night, which we are not doing yet, but it will come. It’s very festive. It’s a very different atmosphere.”

Nuts and bolts

Boats in the Yacht & Brokerage Show range from 40 to 200 feet, with a total worth of about $1 billion, Graziano says. The two largest yachts will be Lady Linda, a 187-foot Trinity, and Diamonds Are Forever, a 200-foot Benetti, Zimbalist says.

There also will be two floating cocktail barges, according to Graziano. A 16,000-square-foot floating Sportfish Pavilion will feature fishing products, and it connects the sportfishing OEM displays, Graziano says. The front features a cocktail barge, and the back has ongoing seminars sponsored by the International Game Fish Association.

“It’s kind of neat because you can walk in, get a drink and walk around, see what’s there, and then go listen to a pro talk about the best new widget in the industry or hear an educational seminar,” Graziano says. “It’s mostly geared for big sportfishing boats.”

There’s also a 25,000-square-foot covered tent that makes up the marine equipment pavilion, which features products such as stabilizers, electronics and other yacht accessories, Graziano says.

TrawlerPort, sponsored by Soundings Trade Only sister publication PassageMaker magazine, will be at the north end of the show and will feature not only the long-range cruisers, but also continuous seminars, Graziano says.

The show covers 1.2 million square feet; the marina that Show Management builds is 1,841,000 square feet and it accommodates about 450 of the 500 yachts in the show.

“This is my 25th year down there,” Graziano says. “I started the show, I believed in the show, and in the site. I visualized it would work, but I never visualized it would become this big.”

This article originally appeared in the February 2013 issue.

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