ORLANDO, Fla. — Exhibitors at the new NMMA Marine Accessories Pavilion fielded a consistent flow of business activity on the first day of ICAST as they signed purchase orders, met new customers and networked with potential business partners on Wednesday.
“This show has arrived — and we decided that we needed to be a part of it,” said Jason K. Gardner, vice president of marketing and advertising for SeaDek Marine Products in Rockledge, Fla.
“We have come and walked the show before and we’ve seen the growth. Each year it has become more substantial. So when the pavilion opportunity presented itself, we knew we should participate.”
This is first year of the Marine Accessories Pavilion, a partnership between the American Sportfishing Association, which produces ICAST, and the National Marine Manufacturers Association. Roughly 40 manufacturers are exhibiting at ICAST (the International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades).
“It’s been very positive so far,” said Jennifer Thompson, NMMA vice president of consumer and trade shows. “I am hearing some promising feedback, and we have dozens of NMMA members here [as attendees] walking the show to see if it’s a good fit for them for next year. Our intent is to be here long-term.”
The pavilion, an appendage of the overall exhibition, gives marine companies a chance to differentiate themselves from hardcore fishing equipment companies.
“As an electronics company we could get lost in a sea of tackle and fishing rods, so this is perfect for us,” said Gabe Isham, director of operations for Norcross Marine Products, an Orlando company that sells handheld depth finders. “We’ve seen good traffic so far. It is important for us to separate ourselves from the hardcore fishing gear.”
Bob Udulutch would agree. Udulutch is the plant operations manager at DuraSafe, a New Berlin, Wis., company that specializes in locks for electronics units, trolling motors and trailers. One of his colleagues walked the show last year, noting its growth.
“She realized how much larger the show was,” Udulutch said. “We’ve already talked to many buyers who we had never spoken to before. We’ve talked to potential dealer/installers.”
It has been a thumbs-up experience so far for the Viatek Consumer Products Group, a Chattanooga, Tenn., company that about six months ago acquired the Q-Beam brand of handheld spotlights and fishing lights, national sales manager Christopher Baumunk said.
“We’ve already put in some purchase orders with distributors and some mom-and-pop fishing and tackle businesses,” Baumunk said. “Fishermen need lights. Our portable fish-attracting underwater lights have been particularly getting attention.”
ICAST is ideal for promoting SeaDek for kayak applications, Gardner said.
“Anglers are a huge part of our customer base, and this is where the fishermen are,” said Gardner, whose company sells Kayak Traction Kits, helm pads, swim platform pads and faux teak decking.
“Kayak fishing has taken off. This is a great venue for us to show what we are capable of doing with kayaks. This is a great place to interact with kayak manufacturers.”
This is the biggest ICAST ever, with more than 13,000 attendees. Show organizers were hoping to reach 14,000. Trade Only will report a final attendance figure as soon as it becomes available. The number of exhibitors has increased from about 400 in 2007 to about 750 this year. Again, no official number was available.
This year, the show includes 650,000 gross square feet of floor space — up from 350,000 since 2011. That includes space used by ICAST — as well as the International Fly Tackle Dealer Show, which is being held simultaneously with ICAST — and the NMMA.
As the show’s footprint has grown, so has the display space of some exhibitors, such as Garmin. In three years Garmin has tripled the size of its display area. Garmin has already signed up for a larger display footprint for next year’s show, said Carly Hysell, the company’s media relations manager.
With more room, Garmin has brought more people, too. This year, about a dozen Garmin-sponsored fishing pros are working the booth, said John Spiddle, a Garmin training specialist from Crystal River, Fla.
“A couple years ago, we had only a few [pros],” he said.