Small in size, big in sales

Posted on Written by Chris Landry

suncoastMore boats were on display at the Suncoast Boat Show and visitors were willing and able to buy

It might be small compared to the Lauderdale and Miami shows, but the Suncoast Boat Show in Sarasota, Fla., this spring certainly attracted serious shoppers, manufacturers and dealers say.

“The show was successful,” says Mike Adams, a salesman with Cannons Marina on Longboat Key, Fla., a dealer for Grady-White, Scout, Southwind and Jupiter. “We had a signed contract on a Scout at the show, and we had a deposit come in shortly after the show on a Grady-White. We are very close with a few other new purchases on the Jupiter, Scout and Grady-White brands.”

The number of new boats displayed in the water at the show increased by 25 percent from last year, with most of the increase consisting of boats under 45 feet, according to the producer, Show Management. This year there was a 28 percent increase in new boats under 45 feet in the water.

Some dealers and manufacturers say Suncoast, which was held April 19-21 this year, has fewer tire-kickers than most other shows. “At both the Palm Beach [International Boat Show] and here, we find more qualified buyers, and for us, we have to have qualified buyers,” says Jennifer Richards, sales director of The Hinckley Company. “The show draws these folks because parking is easier. It is easier to get to than a show in a more urban area. The people who buy our boats are not going to want to fight crowds or take a shuttle bus to get to a show.”

New models, such as the Scout 320 LXF, Jupiter 41 Express and Grady-White Freedom 335, attracted showgoers, Adams says. “Those new styles had great traffic because they are newer models but true to the manufacturer’s personality.”

Galati Yachts met consumers with aggressively priced boats, and it paid off. “Our efforts have resulted in contracts directly from the show,” says Darren Plymale, general manager of Galati Yachts in Tampa, Fla., a Tiara, Cruisers and Viking dealer. “Those products that presented the most value were more popular. We have also received contracts on our pre-owned segment on display, including our trades and brokerage vessels.”

suncoast2Galati received several brokerage listings as a result of its display at the show, Plymale says. “This is very important to our brokerage segment, with today’s buyer continuing to seek excellent value in late-model products,” he says.

Interest and sales activity in the cruising segment of the market excelled, Plymale says. “That buyer is entering the market again, and that was evident at this show,” he says. “They were probably the last to arrive.”

MarineMax of Sarasota and Venice, Fla., also prospered at Suncoast. Sales were up extensively from last year, says Tyler V. Choyke, general manager of MarineMax Venice. MarineMax carries the Boston Whaler, Sea Ray, Azimut, Harris FloteBote, Bayliner, Hatteras, Meridian, Cabo and Mako brands. Boston Whaler’s Vantage series did well. The Sea Ray Venture, with its concealed outboards, and the Azimut 54 drew lots of interest, too.

“The buying habits seem to be back with a number of our clients,” Choyke says. “Certainly the fact the Dow has been up at all-time highs recently is helping. I think people are feeling better about themselves economically than they have for quite some time. I have been in this business for over 30 years, and it’s people’s perception of the economy versus the economy itself that seems to drive buying habits. Right now, people are tired of feeling poorly about their economic lot in life.”

MarineMax Venice and MarineMax Sarasota displayed a combined 18 boats at the show.

This was the first Suncoast show for Scott Hanson, owner of Rossiter Boats in Markdale, Ontario. “There are a lot of well-heeled boaters who have experience on the water, and they know what they are looking for,” Hanson says. “They recognize quality fit and fitness, and overall construction and design.”

Rossiter’s local dealer, Big Toy Sales & Storage of Venice, sold a 17-footer and arranged sea trials with five potential buyers, he says.

The Suncoast show  featured a combined 155 new and used boats in the water — an increase from 133 last year, according to Show Management. The number of exhibitors increased 2 percent. There were more boats on land this year, compared with last year, but specific numbers were unavailable.

Recent enhancements to the free MyBoatShow smartphone app — designed to help explore the docks and tents — helped showgoers navigate their way around the event, which was held at Marina Jack on Sarasota Bay. Show Management is owned by Active Interest Media, parent company of Soundings Trade Only.

This article originally appeared in the June 2013 issue.

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