Attendance figures down at Detroit, Toronto and St. Louis shows

Detroit Show. Holding the show four weeks earlier than usual didn’t dampen enthusiasm. Photo courtesy of

Detroit Show. Holding the show four weeks earlier than usual didn’t dampen enthusiasm. Photo courtesy of

Attendance was down at the Progressive Detroit Boat Show, the Toronto Boat Show and the Progressive Insurance St. Louis Boat & Sportshow in 2020. Organizers said that traffic was steady and that dealers reported strong sales.

More than 54,500 people attended the 62 annual Progressive Detroit Boat Show that ran from January 18 to 26 at the TFC Center, which was previously known as Cobo Center. The show was held four weeks earlier than in previous years and management says the re-scheduling has a positive outcome.

“Hosting the show in January helps Michigan boat buyers get their boats into the manufacturers’ production schedule earlier, helping assure these boats are delivered in time for spring launch,” Nicki Polan, show director, said in a statement. “January manufacturer and dealer incentives are also typically the best of the year, which helps lower the pricing, and the January dates also give dealers a jump on the selling season.”

The show filled three halls at the TCF Center, covering nearly 500,000 square feet with nearly 700 boats ranging from 10 to 46 feet long. More than 100 exhibitors brought in 72 new models and there was lots of new gear including electronics.

“We exceeded our sales goal by 50 percent at this year’s show and our post-show follow up has been solid,” Tom Ervin, president of Walstrom Marine in Harbor Springs, Mich., said in the statement.

Added Colony Marine president Pete Beauregard, “We had a record show and are excited to be able to kick off the season a month earlier.”

Attendance was down 22 percent from 2019 due to a snowstorm on the first weekend. “Date changes can be challenging even when they are better dates for consumers purchasing boats,” said Polan. “We’ve been told it can take a year or two to re-set the mindset in a market.”

Toronto show. Sales of fiberglass boats were up at the Toronto show.

Toronto show. Sales of fiberglass boats were up at the Toronto show.

At the 62 annual Toronto Boat Show, event promoters listed attendance at 69,530, which is down about 5 percent from 2019. A major snowstorm on the opening weekend likely had an impact because management said that more than 1,700 e-tickets were not redeemed.

“We are sensitive to the objectives of our exhibitors and continue to focus marketing efforts to highlight the retail environment in our messaging,” Cynthia Hare, manager for the Toronto Boat Show, said in a statement. “We’re pleased that the majority of exhibitors met or exceeded their sales goals; but recognize that these results are not shared across the board. We will continue to prioritize our strategies that attract new and diverse buyers in all categories of boating, which we pro-actively do by creating significant value for attendees through our special events, features and educational programming.”

From the exhibitors, Rob Rule of Maple City Marine, which carries Beneteau, Bennington, Kingfisher, Lund, MasterCraft, Ranger, Regal and Scout said he had a “great start to the season,” adding, “The boat show is a big part of our business and our 2020 show goals have been exceeded.”

Toronto show highlights included the world’s largest indoor lake, which hosed the Toronto Indoor Wakeboard Championships on the closing weekend. Top pros competed for $10,000 in cash and world series points.

The St. Louis show had a number of interactive attractions.

The St. Louis show had a number of interactive attractions.

After the 2020 Progressive Insurance St. Louis Boat & Sportshow, attendance was reported at 20,883 with management reporting steady traffic despite the overall number being down by about 10 percent compared to 2019.

To encourage Sunday attendance, the show introduced a Super Sunday promotion that included $6 show admission, food and drink specials and giveaways. The show also partnered with a local animal shelter to bring in animals available for adoption.

Other highlights of the 2020 St. Louis Boat & Sportboat Show included the Discover Boating Experience, a hub for boaters that included seminars, demonstrations and hands-on learning. Other favorites included the Paddle Sports Pool, the Hawg Trough with daily fishing instruction, the annual Turkey Calling Contest and the Progressive Boat Club.


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