The Providence Boat Show is like many smaller regional shows that rely on the loyalty of local buyers and the hard work of local builders, dealers and vendors.
For years, these shows tended to look and feel the same — same exhibitors, same layout and probably Twiggy, the water-skiing squirrel.
Three years ago, the Rhode Island Marine Trades Association bought the then-20-year-old show from the privately held Newport Exhibition Group, which produces the Newport International Boat Show and the Newport Charter Yacht Show.
Now run as a trade association show under the leadership of RIMTA CEO Wendy Mackie, the Providence show has evolved each year as the association tries new and fresh approaches. People who hadn’t been to the show in recent years saw a significantly different event last month than the one they remembered.
“We know that boat shows can’t be run the way they always have been — with just a large fleet of boats in a hall — and we pushed our exhibitors this year to rethink their game, to liven up their displays, to make them feel real,” Mackie said.
The layout at the Feb. 4-7 show was reorganized to get away from supermarket-type aisles, providing a more open feel with better traffic flow. The hub, now called the Anchor Bar, was moved from the far side of the Rhode Island Convention Center to the center of the floor because it had been skewing traffic to that one side of the hall. The entire floor was carpeted for the first time this year.
Special activities, “the kinds that get folks more inspired to go boating and give them more reason to stay at the show longer,” Mackie says, were held throughout the venue.
Exhibitors gave this year’s show a thumbs-up despite a dip in attendance because of a snowstorm at the start and the Super Bowl on the final day.
Russell Lemieux, co-owner of Inland Marine, a Chepachet, R.I., dealer that carries the Sea Hunt, Tahoe, G3, SunCatcher and Yamaha brands, said his team fared well despite the obstacles.
“We sold five boats at the show, and another four in the weeks after from leads gained at the show,” he said. “We found people coming in were in buying mode. We told ourselves during the show, ‘It’s going to be another good year; we can see it coming.’ ”
Al Addessi, of South Attleboro Marine, a Stingray, Mercury and Volvo dealer in Massachusetts, said he sold three new Stingrays. “The show is always good for us. We always write up some boats at the show and write several more after,” he said.
We could not fit our report about the show into the April issue of Soundings Trade Only magazine, but click here for the full report on the show and its new look.