IBEX wraps with 20 percent gain in attendance

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Organizers of the International BoatBuilders’ Exhibition and Conference said the number of visitors was up 20 percent over last year. Anne Dunbar, show director, told Trade Only Today that she didn’t have final attendance numbers, but the double-digit increase might have been due to two factors.

“We’ve had hurricane threats in the last two years, so we dodged that,” Dunbar said. “Beyond that, the industry seemed hungry for new products and innovation, so I think there was also pent-up demand for the increase in visitors.”

There were 100 new companies exhibiting at the show, along with four country pavilions (Australia, Italy, France and Korea) and a total of 21 countries represented. Booths were packed in every open space outside the exhibit halls, along the mezzanine and bottom floor of the Tampa Convention Center.

Changes to this year’s show include electronic badge printing, a Boatbuilder’s lounge, a digital show directory and a VIP lounge. The on-water portion had 38 boats at the dock. “We call that section Test Driving Technology,” Dunbar said.

“A number of companies showed new technologies, including a new open-cockpit air-conditioning system and engine technologies,” she added. “We also put the audio companies out there so they can blast the music.”

Most exhibitors said the show had a good buzz and was worth attending.

Eifrion Evans, CEO of Lumishore, which manufactures LED lighting for the marine market, said this year’s IBEX had been the best for some time. “It feels like it’s heading back to Chicago standards,” Evans said, referring to the original IMTEC show in Chicago. “This is the best fall we’ve had so far. We had some excellent meetings and expect business to come well past the show.”

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Startup Nautic-On also had a good show. The Brunswick company, which officially launched at the Miami International Boat Show earlier this year, was there partly to build its brand. “I’ve been to this show over the years, and it’s exciting to see how it has grown in Tampa,” said Adam Schanfield, general manager. “We’ve focused on conversations with customers and partners, and what else we can do to grow our business. We’re going to be much more visible a year from now than we are today.”

Exhibitors in the six-person French pavilion were a bit more measured in their responses.

Gene Turpaud of Caren Ecolo, which introduced a mobile, cost-effective way to clean hull bottoms, said the first day was good but that the last two days were slower than they had expected. The French exhibitor said they met some potential contacts in the U.S. market.

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“We need to find a U.S. distributor to handle this product,” Turpaud said. “The show was good in that we knew we would find some interested people.” He’s not sure, however, if Caren Ecolo will return next year.

Chirstophe Colineaux, CEO of Fendress, a French fender manufacturer, said there were not enough visitors, and IBEX was too expensive. “We compared it to METS, and it doesn’t have the same attraction for foreign exhibitors,” Colineaux said. “We just weren’t getting enough visitors, and our location wasn’t great because there didn’t seem to be a huge flow of people between the two floors.”

Fendress did, however, make some valuable contacts, including distributors from Korea and Taiwan. Colineaux wasn’t sure if the company would return next year.

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U.K. electronics and accessories manufacturer Scanstrut had a strong show, according to CEO Tom Reed. “It’s been really good,” Reed said. “I think it’s the result of a lot of the consolidations we’ve made in the last few years.”

Scanstrut recently set up a U.S. office that handles American OEM builders and the aftermarket. “This allows us to stock products, ship quickly and support our growing customer base,” Reed said. “We have a wide enough product line of almost 300 SKUs that are across a range of categories. We recognize that the world is getting less patient, so we decided it would be best to have a U.S. facility.”

Dunbar said organizers have not evaluated plans for next year and that they were looking at possible layouts that would allow them to add more companies and increase booth sizes. “We’re doing the best we can and trying to accommodate as many as possible,” she said. “But I can’t think about next year’s show right now. I have to finish up this one.”

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