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Billion-dollar selling venue

Miami Boat Show

Many call it a “selling show.” Whether it’s the timing or the after-hours parties on lit-up yachts along Collins Avenue or the sultry February air, the Yacht & Brokerage Show in Miami Beach is one builders count on to close deals.

And a slow but steady climb in consumer confidence that has built each year since the 2008 recession has many exhibitors optimistic that this Yacht & Brokerage Show will be the best they’ve had in many years.

The show, which runs concurrently with the Progressive Insurance Miami International Boat Show, takes place Feb. 13-17.

“[It’s] always been a good show,” says James Henderson, president and CEO for the Americas at Ferretti Group, a company that’s continuing the largest display in the history of the show for a second year. “I think typically we tend to write more deals [than at other shows]. A lot of people say that. I have no idea why that is, but I think you tend to hear of and see more contracts, partly because … in February people are thinking summer’s not so far away. People who live in South Florida think, OK, I’ve used my boat all year, so they’re thinking about changing it.”

Pete Frederiksen, communications director at Viking Yachts, agrees. “Most of the people buying at [the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show] are going to build boats, and they want them by summer,” he says. “People in Miami — because it’s February — are looking to buy boats at the show or boats that may be in dealer inventory, of which there isn’t a lot. They’re more anxious to get on a boat and get it now. The show also has more international buyers than other shows, so that makes it interesting because you need to know who’s going to walk through there.”

Last year’s Yacht & Brokerage Show was “fantastic,” says Efrem “Skip” Zimbalist III, chairman and CEO of Show Management, the firm that produces and co-owns the show with the Florida Yacht Brokers Association. (Zimbalist also is chairman and CEO of Active Interest Media, the parent company of Soundings Trade Only.)

Yachts valued at more than $1 billion will be displayed along Miami Beach's Collins Avenue.

Yachts valued at more than $1 billion will be displayed along Miami Beach's Collins Avenue.

“Recalling what the exhibitors said last year, they sold a lot of boats. Many said it was the best show they’d had since 2008,” Zimbalist says. “This year is benefiting from the tailwinds from that, as well as the fact that most of the exhibitors were in the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, and we also had a very good Fort Lauderdale show.”

The Yacht & Brokerage Show typically has a strong turnout, and the people who come are high-quality, Henderson says. “We’ve always done reasonably well, and last year we had a great year. In terms of the overall market this year, one of the things we were commenting on this morning was that typically in our industry between Thanksgiving and Christmas, we have a drop-off. This year’s been amazing. I’ve never seen a period between Thanksgiving and Christmas where we’ve had so many inquiries.”

The trio of events — FLIBS, Viking’s two-day VIP pre-Miami event and the Yacht & Brokerage Show — work well in succession for the yacht builder, Frederiksen says. “We get psyched about Miami because when people see all the boats in one place, it lights these people up. We try to squeeze as many boats in as we can.”

A growing venue

The show has expanded again, spreading north on Collins Avenue another 400 feet to add another 30 yachts from 52 to 134 feet. Bookings were tracking about 11 percent above last year at the end of December, Zimbalist says.

“We think people are booking earlier this year. The demand will probably exceed the supply. We expect to have a waiting list for the Miami show,” Zimbalist says. “We expanded a bit geographically and added the Miami Beach Marina for very large yachts. We expect that to be fully subscribed. So in terms of exhibitor interest it’s very strong and we expect to have a waiting list.”

Show Management and the FYBA are adding the Miami Beach Marina location this year to accommodate boats that are too large for the Indian Creek Waterway because of bridge clearance, says Dane Graziano, senior vice president and chief operating officer of Show Management. The Miami Beach Marina will host eight superyachts over 50 meters (164 feet) with brokerage firms that include Worth Avenue Yachts, Camper & Nicholsons, HMY, Northrop & Johnson, Merle Wood & Associates, Fraser Yachts and Burgess Yachts.

“We’re running private cars back and forth for those customers,” Graziano says. “It’s a very exclusive part of the show.”

New exhibitors have continued to come on board: Sea Ray will display yachts between 42 and 65 feet. Tiara is also bringing its fleet to the show, with eight yachts from 36 to 60 feet, Graziano says. VanDutch Marine Ltd., which is now being built by Marquis Yachts, is another new addition, bringing three boats from 31 to 54 feet.

Down East ‘village’

Sabre Yachts and sister company Back Cove are also moving to Collins Avenue this year to take advantage of the new Down East section of the show, says sales and marketing vice president Bentley Collins. The companies will introduce a new Sabre 54 and a Back Cove 41 in their respective display areas.

“We see some real opportunity there. It’s going to be a great show,” Collins says. “The market’s been very vibrant for us for some time now. All the Down East builders — like Hinckley, MJM, Hunt, Sabre — have been having good success. Customers are looking for our boats and spending money. The market share for blue boats has been impressively strong for the last 12 months.”

“Collins Avenue is going to be an amazing venue,” Collins adds. “I love it because we’re at the northern end of the show, and all our blue boats will be grouped together. We’re kind of excited that we’re all in one place and that they’ve recognized us as a group. Hopefully we’ll have some real influence on that Down East dock.”

Collins says he was impressed that Show Management listened to the company’s request for a Down East section when he met with organizers at last year’s Palm Beach show. “We asked them if they would make us our own village because this segment is hot. Unfortunately not everyone jumped in,” Collins says, but he was pleased that organizers were quick to accommodate the suggestion.

Down East boats had been included in the trawler section, now called CruiserPort, which will be home to long-range cruisers between 35 and 90 feet. Outside the Down East section will be the PassageMaker magazine seminar tent, which is larger this year to accommodate more attendees at the popular sessions. They’ve had standing-room-only crowds at past events.

Billion-dollar lineup

The free in-water-only show covers more than 1.2 million square feet over a mile-long strip of Indian Creek Waterway between 41st and 51st streets on Collins Avenue and features more than 500 new and used boats valued in excess of a billion dollars.

It will host at least 70 yachts over 100 feet, and that number was still growing in early January, Graziano says. (As a comparison, the Monaco Yacht Show has 90 yachts over 100 feet.) At the time of the interview, the largest boats in the show were a 164-foot Christensen and a 143-foot Benetti, Graziano says. Other yachts include a 123-foot Sanlorenzo, a 111-foot Sunseeker and a 110-foot Mangusta. “The lineup of boats is phenomenal,” he says.

Ferretti’s new-boat display will include 22 or 23 boats — two less than last year — but only because there are some bigger boats in the mix, Henderson says. There will be two Custom Line boats, a Custom Line 100 and a Navetta 26. The company will debut the Ferretti 750 among its lineup of six other Ferrettis, six Rivas and three Bertrams in what Henderson calls “a prime location.”

Four Marquis yachts will be at the builder’s in-water display on Collins Avenue, says marketing director Dick Nocenti. They are the 420 Sport Bridge, 500 Sport Bridge, 630 Sport Yacht and 720 Flybridge Motor Yacht.

“The vertically integrated design of our American yacht yard enables us to build Marquis yachts with layouts and features that are custom-designed and built to an owner’s specifications,” Nocenti says. “The yachts on display … will showcase the custom capabilities of our company, as well as the ultra-premium quality for which the Marquis brand has become known throughout the world.”

Viking is bringing about 20 boats from 42 to 82 feet. Three of the offerings will be new models — a 52-foot convertible, a 42-foot SC (Sport Coupe) and a 42-foot ST (Sport Tower), which Frederiksen calls a Sport Coupe with a tuna tower.

The show is not just an opportunity for boatbuilders, says David Hensel, who is in charge of marketing for VesselVanguard, a start-up that provides maintenance management tools to boat owners directly and through partnerships with builders.

“The Yacht & Brokerage Show in Miami Beach is a uniquely important venue for us to reach out to each of those audiences — boaters and manufacturers alike — given the large numbers of both attendees and exhibitors on the docks throughout that show,” Hensel says.

“It’s also well geared to what VesselVanguard is all about, which is improving the boat ownership experience through technology and innovation,” he adds. “More and more in recent years, the Yacht & Brokerage Show has been the place where companies … launch and showcase their best new models, new innovations and new ways to make boat ownership better, easier and more enjoyable.”

Painting the town red

There is but one oft-heard complaint regarding Collins Avenue: traffic. With a mile-long stretch of show, some attendees can’t walk everywhere, but balk at the idea of a 45-minute, half-mile cab ride. So this year Show Management is adding a water taxi with five stops along the show route to bypass traffic and quickly get attendees where they want to go.

A water shuttle also will take visitors — on an invitation-only basis — to the Villa Vecchia, where the Active Interest Media Marine Group pavilion will be, says Gary DeSanctis, AIM Marine group publisher and general manager. The palatial mansion is beautiful — “You think you’re in Italy” — and is across the creek from the show, DeSanctis says.

The gated, 18,000-square-foot compound was built in 1928 by architect L.M. Barrett for F.W. Woolworth, according to the Villa Vecchia’s Facebook page. The owners have kept the historic integrity of the home, but have extensively renovated it to incorporate modern-day luxuries.

“Lunch will be served every day and there will be parties every evening, featuring a ‘Red Hot’ party on Valentine’s Day,” DeSanctis says.

Red will be a theme throughout the show, Graziano says, with on-site guest services sponsor Simrad seeking to “paint the city in red,” a theme that will highlight the company’s signature color.

“The information centers are called guest services now. They’ll be red tents, and the signs for each ramp leading into the show will also have the Simrad red. So there will be a lot of color. Their main mission is to paint the show red.”

The market

The Miami shows are often seen as a benchmark for the overall industry’s health in the coming year, but Collins says Sabre and Back Cove sales have been so strong that the companies have hired about 50 people in the past year.

“We’re very pleased with the availability of labor, and we’re developing new models. The successes we’re having right now are allowing us to think about what’s next. We’re very excited. It’s a very good time to be in the blue boat business.”

Affluent Americans — the typical buyers of Sabres and Back Coves — are doing very well, Collins says. “Their financial lives are stable. The people who are in it with home equity money in their boat or have highly leveraged inventory, I don’t think those people are in the market anymore. The overall market has slipped, but our overall market has grown. The mid-range stuff is hard, and the largest luxury boatbuilders are still having trouble because that’s where their customers are.”

Viking also is hiring again. “We need more people still. We opened a fourth production line, so we have boats to build,” Frederiksen says. “We have a backlog of about 12 months. We just stay focused on listening to what our people tell us and go from there. I think the product stands on its own merit. We have the clientele that wants a bigger boat. That’s why we’re bringing out the 92 [a boat that won’t debut until later in 2014]. We have others who want smaller boats, so we’re building 42-footers.”

Nocenti says consumer interest in Marquis is the strongest it has been in the past several years. “Our experience during the recent Fort Lauderdale show validates this, as retail activity was the best it has been for us in recent history. A portion of this improved climate is a result of gradual economic improvements, but we also attribute a large part of our brand’s recent success to the aggressive stance we have taken in designing, building and introducing new products for both the Marquis and Carver brands.”

Marquis and sister company Carver, which displays at the Miami International Boat Show, have continued to invest in product development. “People are always interested in what is new, especially when that product reflects attributes that they desire,” Nocenti says. “Having numerous new models has attracted both experienced boaters and people new to boating to our brands.”

“I think it’s going to be a very strong show,” Zimbalist says. “I think the buyers are tired of waiting and not getting any younger, and they’ve had a pretty good year on the stock market, which has done well internationally. Wall Street bonuses are going to be up. I think the economy, especially in Central and South America, has been doing well, with the possible exception of Brazil. The real estate market in Miami is indicative of that market’s confidence. They’ve been buying lot of real estate in the Miami area, so expect them to be in Miami buying boats.”

The strength in Central and South American markets, combined with the large concentration of attendees from that region, increases the show’s importance to the Ferretti Group, Henderson says.

But even in the United States, the boating market in general is continuing to pick up, Zimbalist says. “The thing that’s encouraging to me is that you’re seeing some of the smaller-sized boats in the 30- to 60-foot range beginning to sell better. The cruiser market’s been very weak for a very long time. We’ll have more boats in that size at the show. I think more and more of those will start selling, and I think that’s an encouraging sign for the industry to see that movement.”

This article originally appeared in the February 2014 issue.



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