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Exhibitors report strong sales at St. Petersburg show

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Boat dealers, manufacturers and other exhibitors at the 36th annual St. Petersburg Power and Sailboat Show reported strong selling activity despite a 6 percent decrease in overall attendance at the four-day event. The number of new and used boats at the show rose 3 percent.

“We think it was a good show,” Eastern Boats sales manager Bruce Perkins told Trade Only this morning. “It wasn’t an overpowering crowd, but it was steady. When you have too many people, you can’t spend as much quality time as you would like with them. Hey, I would rather have less people and more buyers.”

Wefings Marine in Eastpoint, Fla., is a dealer for Perkins. The dealership sold an Eastern 248 Islander and a 21 Seaway Sport. “We got a couple good sales out of the show and my dealer has several other good leads.” St. Petersburg gives Eastern, which is based in New Hampshire, a chance to increase its presence in Florida and the south, Perkins said.

He said the timing of the show works for Eastern. “All of the snowbirds are pretty much here now,” he said. “All those people who come down from the north are familiar with our type of boat. It’s nice to be able to connect with them here.”

The show was held Dec. 5-8 at the Progress Energy Center for the Arts Mahaffey Theater Yacht Basin and Albert Whitted Park. The waterfront event featured boats in the water and on land. This year’s show was larger and had expanded in-water displays with about 300 exhibitors and hundreds of boats, organizers said.

The largest boat was from Curtis Stokes Yacht Brokerage — a $1.6 million Northcoast Yachts 84 Pilothouse, Sailbad the Sinner, according to Efrem “Skip” Zimbalist III. He is chairman and CEO of Active Interest Media, the group that owns Show Management, which produces the show. (AIM also owns Soundings Trade Only.). There were 152 boats on display in the water, Zimbalist said, adding that the sales climate has shown steady improvement.

“We are definitely seeing the pace picking up on the east coast of Florida and a strengthening of not just our business, but our exhibitors’ business,” Zimbalist told me in a Q&A session last Friday. “Some of the dealers on the west coast [of Florida] are still recovering from the recession, so there isn’t as much inventory on this side as there is in some other places in the country, especially on the sailing end of it, which is a big part of the show.”

The show also touted a healthy schedule of marine seminars from Sail America and children’s fishing clinics presented by the non-profit Hook The Future.

The show was endorsed and sponsored by Sail America, presented by Lincoln and sponsored by Budweiser, Gosling’s, Sail Magazine and Power & Motoryacht Magazine.

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