Builders weigh in on wintry New York show

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The Progressive Insurance New York Boat Show had some good days, but it might have lost some business because of the winter storm that hit the Northeast last Thursday and Friday.

“On Friday, people were telling you all along don’t leave your house, so people did not,” Rec Boat Holdings group president Roch Lambert told Trade Only Today after the show, which is held at the Jacob K. Javits Center in Manhattan. “You could’ve gone bowling at the show on Friday and not knock anybody down.”

Around 40 percent of the company’s sales came on the first day of the show, New Year’s Day, Lambert said.

“Dealers were on fire Wednesday night and we thought we were going to kill it,” he said. “Then they started talking about the storm and everything fizzled.”

Saturday was “quite crowded,” Lambert said, but there weren’t many serious buyers.

“It was difficult to sit people down — there were a lot of tourists,” Lambert said. “It was sunny and very cold [the last day of the show], a perfect day to go do a boat show. And circulation wasn’t an issue anymore because the snow had been cleared, so the people who showed up were there for a social event and to escape the cold.”

Lambert said all four Rec Boat Holdings booths — Four Winns, Glastron, Scarab and Wellcraft — were busy, and comments were positive. “But I didn’t feel like people were in a buying mood. We were not far behind where we were last year, but given the traffic we’re not where I thought we’d be.”

Bentley Collins, sales and marketing vice president for Sabre and Back Cove, said there were a number of people who came to see big boats.

“New York had a lot of people who came expecting to see more large boats, so we were very pleased to have been one of the few displays with a boat over 40 feet [the Sabre 42 Salon Express],” said Collins, who spoke to Trade Only during and after the show. “But the cost of displaying large boats in an indoor space in one of the costliest show environments is unrealistic, so New York has become and will continue to be a show with small to midsize boats.”

The show generated several good leads for both brands, Collins said. “There were plenty of attendees who were more small-boat oriented, for sure, so it took a lot of sorting out the wheat from the chaff,” he said. “The five-day run was good considering the dates and the snow storm we experienced Friday. … Next year’s dates in the third week of January will be better for the show.”

The show will be held Jan. 21-25 next year. For the last decade, the dates have fallen right on or around New Years’ Day.

Grady-White vice president of marketing Shelley Tubaugh told Trade Only from the show floor that it was “starting to look like a normal Saturday.”

“The storm put a damper on things … but we’re still optimistic the show will be good, and the interest thing is, leading into the show, [sales] have been even better than last year,” Tubaugh said.

“We’ve made some sales, definitely,” Tubaugh added. “The boat show isn’t the same kind of sit-down-and-write-a-deal situation it used to be in late 1980s and ’90s. But what it is, people start having an interest and are having conversations before the show. They now come to a show to look at models, talk to sales people, and wrap up loose ends a day or two after.”

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