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Center-console market growth evident in Fort Lauderdale

The recession took its largest toll on 20- to 50-foot boats and the industry’s bounce-back is evidenced by the large rebound in that size range.
The 56th Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, which opens Thursday and runs through Monday, is seeing the center console boat segment grow the fastest.

The 56th Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, which opens Thursday and runs through Monday, is seeing the center console boat segment grow the fastest.

The recession took its largest toll on 20- to 50-foot boats and the industry’s bounce-back is evidenced by the large rebound in that size range, with several boats making their debut at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, which opens Thursday.

That’s according to Efrem “Skip” Zimbalist III, president of Show Management, the company that organizes the show, who told Trade Only Today that the trend of those boats returning has continued to gain momentum.

Soundings Trade Only and Show Management are part of the Active Interest Media Marine Group.

“It’s a trend we’ve been noticing for the last two, three and four years, where boats in the 20- to 40- or 50-foot size, which were very slow right after 2008 and 2009, have been coming back,” Zimbalist told Trade Only. “That category really took the biggest hit, but it has been coming back strongly. It’s the fastest-growing part of the show.”

Organizers of the show, which is owned by the Marine Industries Association of South Florida, say not to overlook or underestimate the fastest-growing section of the show —offshore fishing boats.

“The center console smaller-boat market has an incredibly strong presence at the [Broward County Convention Center],” said Andrew Doole, senior vice president and COO of Show Management.

Improvements in engines and accessories, such as joystick docking for smaller boats, have invigorated that segment, he says. “Everybody is updating and coming out with even more powerful outboards. It really creates some very exciting boats,” Doole said.

That’s certainly true for Boston Whaler, which has added 18 brand-new models to its portfolio during the last five years, said Jeff Vaughn, vice president of sales, marketing and customer service at the Brunswick-owned company. Some models have been so popular that the Fort Lauderdale show will be buyers’ first chance to see them.

Whaler will debut a 330 Outrage and also bring a 420 Outrage, which debuted last year.

“There is a lot of amazing new product coming out and new features that make it easier to boat. These types of products are making the vessels friendly for day boating and entertaining, and for people learning to boat,” Zimbalist said. “The market has been very responsive to it. People who have caught that sweet spot are selling a lot of boats.”

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