Suncoast exhibitors busy despite drop in turnout

Posted on Written by Chris Landry
There were more boats and a higher percentage of serious shoppers at this year's Suncoast show exhibitors say.

There were more boats and a higher percentage of serious shoppers at this year’s Suncoast show exhibitors say.

Sales activity was brisk despite the thinner crowds at the Suncoast Boat Show in Sarasota, Fla., dealers and brokers say.

The show was held March 25-27 at Marina Jack in downtown Sarasota, and more than 150 boats were on display on land and in the water. “Overall, we had a great show,” says Andy Harwell, general manager of Erickson Marine in Sarasota. “We were slammed on Saturday. On a few occasions we had people on all of our boats at the same time.”

Attendance was down 6.8 percent, compared with last year, but was 9.3 percent higher than at the 2012 show, according to Show Management, the company that owns and produces the event. The show boasted the largest yacht in its history — the 110-foot Broward motoryacht Entrepreneur, shown by Denison Yacht Sales.

[The show] was outstanding — a ton of traffic, lots of qualified buyers, great energy on the docks,” says Bob Denison, president of the sales and brokerage firm. “Our busiest boats at the show were the 110-foot Broward and the 65 from Monte Carlo Yachts. At the busiest times of the show, there was actually a line for these vessels.”

Sarasota Yacht & Ship also saw good traffic and connected with quality buyers, says managing director Jason Mashke. He says the show was the best the business has had in Sarasota in a long time. “We had one boat under contract at the show and are expecting a few more,” Mashke said a few days after the event.

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Erickson Marine cut some deals, as well, collecting deposits on at least four boats — a 27-foot Blackwood, a 27-foot Regal, a 23-foot Tidewater and a 227 Sportsman, according to sales manager Chris Erickson. The dealership presented 16 boats at the show. As of early May, Erickson had already held sea trials on a Contender 32 ST and a 35-foot Regal and had sea trials scheduled for a 25-foot Contender bay boat and a Contender 35 ST.

Dealers of larger boats also were upbeat. “We have several contracts from the show, many more scheduled sea trials and look forward to enjoying our results from the event,” says Darren Plymale, vice president of Galati Yacht Sales, a dealer for Tiara, Viking, Cruisers, Maritimo, Grand Banks, Princess, Prestige, Rampage and Chris-Craft. “As with all our spring selling events, we are continuing to experience a greater interest in our new products and believe this is a great sign of things to come.”

The smaller crowds were noticeable, says Craig “Kiwi” Rapihana, co-founder of Lazy Bunz, which sells personal water floats. “However, we sold over 250 units, and we had a lot of returning customers stopping by and giving our product excellent reviews.”

Eddie Russell, managing partner of the Viage Group, dealers in Sarasota for Chris-Craft, Scout and Beneteau powerboats, was surprised that attendance had dropped. “We had a very good show — sold some boats, and I thought the crowds were great,” he says. “People were impressed with our display, too.”

The overall number of boats in the water at this year’s show — new and brokerage — was up 14 percent, according to Show Management. The number of brokerage boats was flat; there was an increase in boats 45 feet and smaller and a decrease in boats 46 feet and larger. The number of new boats in the water increased by 18 percent, and 16 percent of those were 45 feet and smaller.

Soundings Trade Only is owned by Active Interest Media, which also owns Show Management.

This article originally appeared in the June 2014 issue.

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