GOST has grown its international presence between 250 and 300 percent in the past seven years, says Brian Kane, director of research and development for the Fort Lauderdale-based security, monitoring and tracking systems supplier. He attributes that growth directly to the company’s presence at the Marine Equipment Trade Show in Amsterdam.
“There are not many other people doing what we’re doing, so that definitely helps,” Kane says, pointing out that international business accounts for about 10 percent of the company’s overall sales. “The marine industry is definitely on the uptick, and that was evident at METS. I talked to other people who had been going in the past and chose to skip it [in 2013], saying, ‘Europe’s been going bad,’ and all I can say is, they made the wrong decision.”
GOST, an acronym for Global Ocean Security Technologies, is not alone in that strategy. METS announced record attendance of 20,500 professionals and 1,320 exhibitors at the Nov. 19-21 show. The increase of more than 5 percent was “very good news for everyone connected to METS and the global maritime supply industry,” METS domain manager Irene Dros says. “The various conferences and meetings also attracted huge numbers, adding to the positive vibe and genuine sense of good business being conducted.”
Several people emphasized that the tone in November was extremely upbeat — and they didn’t say it in the way that makes other people think they’re trying to convince themselves.
“I think that overall, people have kind of grown to accept what the economy is, and the new normal,” says Gaspare Marturano, managing director of social media for Fast-lane, who was attending his first METS. “Part of that is getting us at the level of accepting that if this is the new normal, let’s grow from here. I don’t think we had that the past few years. This year, we kind of have a baseline to figure out how we’re going to grow. I think that’s pretty new.”
Kane says companies that did opt out of the 2013 METS may be sorry later. “One thing I’ll say about METS is, people want to see you there year after year. If you’re not there one year, they’ll assume you’re out of business,” he says. “There are a lot of fly-by-night companies out there. Your presence there says, ‘We’re ready to display our product to the world.’ If you’re not there, people wonder why. And if you’re not there for a year, someone else is going to get your spot.”
In fact, a down economy is the worst time to stop going, says John Mitchell, president of British Columbia-based Canada Metal (Pacific) Ltd., or CMP, a company that has more than doubled its market share in Europe, to about 30 percent, since 2007. “Companies that are left after a bad economy are very strong, and your competition is pulling in, so you have more exposure than you’ve ever had before,” Mitchell says.
Brunswick Corp. CEO Dustan McCoy’s keynote address helped set the upbeat tone, Marturano says. “People were super-friendly and excited. Part of it was that Dusty gave the opening speech and it really set a pretty good tone for the industry as a whole in the United States and Europe. You didn’t walk away with the feeling of doom and gloom.”
McCoy talked about growth in non-U.S. boat sales and emphasized that affordability must be a point of focus for the entire industry.
Carl Cramer, of Professional BoatBuilder and WoodenBoat magazines, says editors were “scouring the floors looking for exciting new product” to pass on to his readers. But the show for him is not all about new products. “METS is always great for us,” Cramer says, adding that the magazines have had a booth at the show for 24 years. “It’s an annual opportunity to visit with European marine professionals.”
METS is an opportunity to give hands-on demonstrations in an international marketplace with relatively new security and tracking systems, Kane says. “Educating the international market at METS, where there are dealers from all over the world, is a great forum to show the latest and greatest. And it’s also an opportunity to stay in close contact with the existing contacts we have.”
The venue gives GOST a chance to answer questions from OEMs or suppliers that carry the company’s products, Kane says. “Over the last six years we have developed some distribution networks, so it helps to show them new lines and help them better understand how the products work. Just spending five minutes with a guy who’s been selling your system for five years can help give him a better understanding of it, and it helps keep old relationships strong. People want to see you there. It’s an important thing, and it’s not just about the booth. Even if it’s going out to dinner or having a beer with a good OEM and catching up, that’s important, too.”
The show’s gargantuan scale can intimidate newcomers, Marturano says, but what surprised him most was how easy it was to find what and who he was looking for.
“It is massive,” Marturano says. “I was amazed by the sheer size, but at the same time it was very well organized. At some shows you’re confused about where to go, and I’m a little surprised a show that size can put together a program that’s fairly easy to read. It was a bit of a trek sometimes, but it was organized. I was really happy with that.”
To identify by nation or not
The show added three national pavilions — South Korea, Slovenia and China, Dros says, for a total of 18, all coordinated by the International Council of Marine Industry Associations. The national pavilions are one of the things that set METS apart.
Cramer says his magazines exhibited in the specialized construction pavilion. “There was an interesting way to display construction materials that were not related to the marine industry, but were interesting and were nice to touch and see.”
Cramer was referring to the pavilion of 125 raw materials at the show’s center, which grew this year to include materials from outside the marine industry. Material Xperience On Tour by Materia displayed materials that organizers hoped could find their way into marine applications. Materia seeks out new materials for members that include Apple and Ferrari and showcases them through traveling exhibitions.
When GOST first began attending METS in 2005, the company exhibited in the NMMA pavilion with other American manufacturers, Kane says.
“It’s a good way to get into it, but you kind of graduate after a few years after you learn about how the show works and everything,” he says. “It’s the largest marine trade show in the world. It’s basically everything that goes on a boat is there, except for the boat … whether for commercial or leisure.” Eventually the company moved into Exhibition Hall One for a little more “international exposure.”
“That’s why you go to METS,” Kane says. “To see companies and people from around the world.”
This article originally appeared in the January 2014 issue.