A ‘beautiful city,’ a healthy show

Posted on Written by Chris Landry

stpete1St. Petersburg’s sparkling new waterfront provides a more conducive setting for boat sales

Boat companies and dealers were busy closing deals and hosting sea trials for potential buyers in December after the St. Petersburg Power & Sailboat Show.

Everglades Boats of Edgewater, Fla., for instance, sold a 243 center console with a second helm station. “One hundred thousand dollars — paid for and done — and we have a good amount of leads which we feel positive about,” says Everglades regional sales representative Greg Allen.

Hacker-Craft was hashing out the final details on the sale of a 26-foot gasoline inboard runabout — its Sterling model, says Ken Rawley, director of sales and marketing for the Silver Bay, N.Y., builder of classic mahogany runabouts.

“We have a deposit coming in for that boat today,” Rawley said in early December. “We also have two other leads — good leads, so we are pleased with St. Petersburg. And it’s a beautiful city with a lot of surrounding culture.”

The show, in its 35th year, was held Nov. 29 to Dec. 2 at the Progress Energy Center for the Arts Mahaffey Theater Yacht Basin and Albert Whitted Park. Attendance increased by 5.2 percent, compared with last year’s show, according to Ricardo Strul, vice president and chief financial officer of Show Management, the company that owns, manages and produces the show. Exhibitor participation rose to more than 250 — a 10 percent increase from 2011.

The overall number of new and brokerage boats also was up — 153 this year, compared with 135 last year. The increase mostly was attributable to an increase in sailboats, Strul says. Last year there were 24 sailing vessels, and this year there were 41.

The show drew just about every major boat brand: Azimut, Hatteras, Tiara, Viking, Beneteau, Catalina, Regal, Sea Ray, Boston Whaler, Grady-White and Carver. But it wasn’t just the big names at the show. Smaller companies such as Statement Marine (a luxury center console builder), Ranger Tugs, Carolina Cat, Comitti (an Italian builder of luxury mahogany runabouts) and Retro Marine Cape Island Trawlers were well represented.

Showgoers got a chance to see innovative boat designs, such as Sea Ray’s new 370 Venture express cruiser with hidden outboards, and joystick helm control systems such as the new Three60 Precision Control System from Caterpillar and Yacht Controller’s wireless remote helm control. Dealers included Denison Yacht Sales, HMY Yacht Sales, Quality Boats, Sunray Marine and MarineMax.

stpete2“The show went very well,” says Steve Sheer, Show Management’s marketing and advertising director. “One of the factors working in our favor is the area looks a whole lot better.”

Nearby construction work has been finished, allowing the waterfront and city attractions to shine, Sheer says.

“The powerboating market seems to be gaining some momentum and there was a good crowd and the seminars went well,” he says.

MarineMax in Clearwater, Fla., met with some success, says sales manager Colin Heimensen.

“Our results were better than last year,” Heimensen says. “The customers certainly had more of an optimistic outlook than they had a year ago. People are talking about boating and more likely to move forward [with a purchase] than they used to be.”

Capt. Mike Adams of Cannons Marina on Longboat Key, Fla., would agree. “It was a great show,” says Adams, the sales manager at Cannons, which carries the Jupiter, Scout, Southwind and Grady-White brands. “We had great traffic in the booth all weekend. We had no sales at the show, but we have scheduled sea trials … and we have a few great leads to follow up on. The show overall seemed much busier than last year.”

Galati Yachts, dealer for a half-dozen boat companies, including Tiara, Cruisers, Viking and Grand Banks, also reported good news.

“We were able to sell a few new boats and a few brokerage boats, so it worked out well for us,” says Galati general manager Darren Plymale. “It was well worth the effort. It’s always a good show for us. The St. Petersburg area is home to one of our largest locations. It’s kind of a home show for us.”

Galati also operates offices in other parts of Florida as well as in Texas and Alabama.

“More than anything else the show gave us an opportunity to come back and continue to work with customers with immediate interest in a boat,” Plymale says.

Galati has been a fixture at the show for many years, but new faces came to St. Petersburg, as well.

“We decided to try the St. Petersburg show, knowing it was a small show and not expecting a huge turnout or great results, but we were very pleasantly surprised,” says Curtis Stokes, president of Fort Lauderdale-based Curtis Stokes & Associates Inc., a worldwide yacht sales, charter and construction company. “The weather certainly helped, but the traffic was great and there were quite a few very serious buyers.”

The company received an offer on one of the three boats in its display and has scheduled follow-up showings on all three, Stokes says. “We also met with quite a few prospects for other boats we have listed for sale,” he says. “There were offers made on boats displayed by other brokers in our area of the show also. We definitely plan to display in the show again next year. I felt Show Management did a great job on this show.”

This article originally appeared in the January 2013 issue.

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