NEW YORK - Mid-January dates, a shorter show, decent weather and improving consumer confidence all contributed to a New York Boat Show that surpassed the expectations of exhibitors and organizers.
The 105th New York show took place Jan. 20-24 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. This year's show was a shift from the usual nine-day format, and took place well after the holiday season - changes that were welcomed by exhibitors and the National Marine Manufacturers Association, which produces the show.
"It exceeded our expectations and the exhibitors' expectations by a lot," show director Jon Pritko said Sunday afternoon while crowds still roamed the floor in the last hours of the show. "These guys are selling product. You see happy people. There's not just tire-kickers coming in."
Attendance at the show was up 51 percent over last year to 47,443, according to organizers.
Exhibitors at this year's show were down by about 10, Pritko said, adding that some exhibitor spaces had been condensed and other manufacturers did not come this year. Of all the former Genmar brands, only Glastron, Wellcraft and Seaswirl were represented at the show.
Crownline dealer Tim Kelly, from Great Bay Marine, said Sunday he was having a much better show this year.
"There's a lot more customers who actually seem to be more qualified buyers," he said.
As of Sunday afternoon, he had sold seven boats - much better than the two boats he sold in nine days at last year's show.
Kelly attributed the improvement largely to the change of dates, but said he'd also started seeing a turnaround at his dealership last fall.
In the final hours of the show, attendees were lined up at the Tara, Prestige, Back Cove, Formula and other yacht exhibits, hoping to get aboard some of the large vessels that dotted the show floor.
Nearly every exhibit had a good number of people looking over the boats and asking questions; some took time to snap pictures of their children pretending to drive the boats.
"The crowd is much better, much bigger," said Boston Whaler manufacturers representative Wil Rogers. "While things are still not the best in the economy, it's nice to see the crowds. There's not so much doom and gloom.
"We're happy with the quality of the customer coming in," he added. "They may not buy at the show, but there are buyers."
Boston Whaler dealer Tony Villareale, from Hampton Watercraft & Marine, said the five-day format and mid-January dates are what made the difference.
"We're starting to see signs of recovery," he said. "We're not getting rich, but people are buying boats."
Neal Hager, Northeast regional sales director for Chris-Craft, said customers for his boats were more likely to visit a dealership than a boat show, but they had seen some qualified buyers.
"I think it was worth the investment [to come to the show]," he said, adding they did not exhibit last year.
Dates for next year's event have not been set, but Pritko said he was again hoping for mid-January dates and expected to keep the shorter show format for the event.
— Beth Rosenberg