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Exhibitors see heavy foot traffic at Sarasota show

SARASOTA, Fla. — Florida boat dealers and marine retailers reported a high level of foot traffic and robust business activity with qualified consumers.
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The Suncoast Boat Show in Sarasota, Fla., wrapped up on Sunday after three days of pleasant weather that helped boost foot traffic to higher levels than normal.

The Suncoast Boat Show in Sarasota, Fla., wrapped up on Sunday after three days of pleasant weather that helped boost foot traffic to higher levels than normal.

SARASOTA, Fla. — Florida boat dealers and marine retailers reported a high level of foot traffic and robust business activity with qualified consumers at the 34th annual Suncoast Boat Show in Sarasota on Sunday.

The three-day weekend event, which wrapped up under sunny skies and temperatures in the low 80s, had all the key elements of a successful boat show — good weather, a rebounding economy and a picturesque on-the-water setting in a relatively affluent demographic area.

A busy week — one filled with sea trials, deal closings and lead chasing — awaits many of the dealers who attended the show at Marina Jack on Sarasota Bay.

“We had a Galeon 420 Fly here that sold within the first two hours of the show,” MarineMax Sarasota general manager Jason LeFevre said. “Our overall revenue is up substantially. We’re selling the same amount of units, but bigger, more expensive boats.”

Boats from about 27 to 55 feet are selling at the pace that smaller boats — 23 to 30 feet — were a few years ago, said LeFevre.

MarineMax presented 17 boats from 25 to 59 feet from Boston Whaler, Galeon, Sea Ray, Azimut and Harris FloteBote.

The Tom George Yacht Group of Dunedin, Fla., had eight boats on display — three new ones from Hatteras, two new ones from Carver and three brokerage boats (plus smaller boats from Cobalt and EdgeWater).

MarineMax sold this Galeon 420 Fly during the first two hours of the three-day weekend show.

MarineMax sold this Galeon 420 Fly during the first two hours of the three-day weekend show.

“These regional shows give you a lot of leads,” president Tom George said. “They’re lead generators. The sale of larger boats is a longer process than smaller boats. It takes time.”

George said he observed upbeat crowds and healthy foot traffic with “good sentiment.”

Benny Parrish, general manager of Cannons Marina, just across the bay on Longboat Key, saw the same. “I can’t complain,” he said. “We have some good prospects, some good deals on the table. Sales activity has been good. This show has grown a lot the last few years.”

Cannons carries Grady-White and SouthWind deck boats.

Mark Castlow, owner of Dragonfly Boatworks LLC in Vero Beach, Fla., said customers at the Suncoast show have a healthy passion for the water.

“This is my kind of show,” said Castlow, who had sold five of his paddleboards and was showing a DragonFly 17 Classic with a Yamaha F70. “If you can get the right people in the right setting, you can have a good show. Here you are outside in the sun, with a nice breeze — not in some convention center under fluorescent lights.”

Phil Bourque, vice president of sales and marketing at Mag Bay Yachts, came all the way from Adelanto, Calif., to show the company’s 33-foot, 6-inch center console with a twin-stepped hull designed by Sarasota-based Michael Peters Yacht Design.

Bourque has a couple of sea trials scheduled today. I will join him for one of them and file a report this week about the boat and the company, which was founded by Mike Howarth and his son, Barrett, said Bourque. (Mike Howarth and Henry Mohrschladt co-founded Cabo Yachts.)

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