Attendance at the 32nd annual Suncoast Boat Show in Sarasota, Fla., was down by 6.8 percent compared with last year, but was 9.3 percent higher than at the 2012 show, according to Show Management, the company that owns and produces the show.
The show featured boats on land and in the water and was held at Marina Jack in downtown Sarasota from Friday through Sunday. There were more than 150 boats on display. The show’s largest yacht ever was on display in the water — the 110-foot motoryacht Entrepreneur by Broward Yachts.
Sales activity was brisk despite the thinner crowds, some dealers and brokers said. Sarasota Yacht & Ship saw a ton of traffic and made great contacts. Jason Mashke, managing director at Sarasota Yacht & Ship, said the show was the best the business has had in Sarasota in a long time.
"We had one boat under contract at the show and are expecting a few more," Mashke said.
Same goes for Erickson Marine in Sarasota. “Overall, we had a great show,” Erickson general manager Andy Harwell said. “We were slammed on Saturday. On a few occasions we had people on all of our boats at the same time. Sunday was off. I was expecting Sunday to be a little better.”
Erickson took deposits on at least four boats — a 27-foot Blackwood, a 23-foot Tidewater, a 227 Sportsman bay boat and a 27-foot Regal, said sales manager Chris Erickson, adding that the dealership had 16 boats on display. Erickson has already held sea trials on a Contender 32 ST and a 35-foot Regal and has sea trials lined up for a 25-foot Contender bay boat and a Contender 35 ST.
What about the bigger boats? “We have several contracts from the show, many more scheduled sea trials and look forward to enjoying our results from the event,” said Darren Plymale, vice president of Galati Yacht Sales, dealers of Tiara, Viking, Cruisers, Maritimo, Grand Banks, Princess, Prestige, Rampage and Chris-Craft.
“As with all our spring selling events we are continuing to experience a greater interest in our new products and believe this is a great sign of things to come.”
Craig "Kiwi" Rapihana, co-founder of Lazy Bunz, which sells personal water floats, said he noticed there were fewer show-goers. “However, we sold over 250 units and we had a lot of returning customers stopping by and giving our product excellent reviews.”
Eddie Russell, managing partner of the Viage Group, dealers in Sarasota of Chris-Craft, Scout and Beneteau powerboats, was surprised to hear attendance had dipped. “We had a very good show — sold some boats and I thought the crowds were great,” he said. “People were impressed with our display, too.”
At this year’s show the number of boats overall — both new and brokerage — in the water was up by 14 percent, according to Show Management. The number of brokerage boats was flat, with an increase in brokerage boats 45 feet and under and a decrease in brokerage boats 46 feet and up. The number of new boats in the water jumped by 18 percent, and 16 percent of those vessels were 45 feet and under.
Soundings Trade Only is owned by Active Interest Media, which also owns Show Management.
Theresa Nicholson contributed to this story.