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Innovation sells at Palm Beach

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 More boats and more people were the hallmarks of this year's successful Palm Beach International Boat Show.

More boats and more people were the hallmarks of this year's successful Palm Beach International Boat Show.

Overall gate attendance at the 29th annual Palm Beach International Boat Show increased by 3.1 percent from 2013 and the show continues to grow at a steady pace.

This was the first year for Galati Yacht Sales at the South Florida show. The company, based in the Tampa/St. Petersburg, Fla., area, displayed seven yachts, including a Westport 112, a 75 Princess, 82 and 64 Vikings and a 45 Grand Banks.

“The quality of prospects on the docks was exceptional,” says Galati vice president and general manager Darren Plymale. “We had many customers join us from the Gulf Coast and we’re quite excited with the outcome. We believe the show is an excellent venue. We’re working contracts with several customers on both new and pre-owned vessels and will have a better barometer in the coming weeks on our overall success at the event.”

HMY Yacht Sales Inc., which is based in Dania, Fla., found some success selling new boats. “It was a stronger show than we thought it would be, given that the two previous shows in Miami and Fort Lauderdale weren’t quite up to our expectations,” says HMY general manager Tom Sanders.

HMY had multiple new-boat sales of Viking, Princess and VanDutch brands as well as the sale of a new 54 Grand Banks.

New-boat sales were stronger than brokerage sales, he says. “The new-boat sales have been building since last fall,” he says. “Brokerage sustained us — not just HMY, but other companies — over the last five years. The brokerage inventory is down and the screaming deals of a couple of years back are gone. Quality or premier brokerage boats have been bought, so the next logical progression is the new boats.”

The segment that saw the largest increase was new boats in the water 40 feet and smaller.

The segment that saw the largest increase was new boats in the water 40 feet and smaller.

Attendance was up 15 percent on Thursday and Friday during the March 20-23 event, but down 10 percent on Saturday because of morning rain. It rebounded on Sunday with a 7 percent gain. The number of in-water boats was up 6 percent, compared with 2013, but the number of exhibitors remained the same. The segment that saw the largest increase was new boats (in the water) 40 feet and under.

Ribcraft USA LLC was one of the newcomers in that market. The company, based in Marblehead, Mass., sold three boats at the show and secured a couple of other deals as a direct result of the show, says its president, Brian Gray. The company sold RIBs of three sizes — 19, 21 and 25 feet.

“Last year we went to Miami [International Boat Show], but decided to forgo it this year and go to Palm Beach, and I think it was a wise decision,” Gray says, adding that the first Ribcraft was sold within a few hours of the show’s opening on Thursday. “We’ve heard good things about Palm Beach and it proved true for us.”

The show was prosperous for Ribcraft because “it’s the right clientele,” Gray says. “It’s held as we’re coming off the season for southern Florida, but a big part of that clientele are folks from New England and New York and folks whose season is just beginning up north. From a timing standpoint, it works well. If it were just a regional show and attracted just folks from southern Florida it wouldn’t be ideal, based on the time of year.”

Show Management CEO Efrem “Skip” Zimbalist III said at a press event during the show that people “are becoming more comfortable with spending money. They are getting older and saying, ‘If not now, when?’ ”

Consumers have good reason to buy now because of manufacturers’ recent design innovations, which “really speak to today’s boater” and continue to pump life into the market, Zimbalist says.

“People don’t have as much time to spend out on the water and are not as interested in having four cabins or staterooms,” he says. “What they want to do is go out for the day, maybe two days or a weekend, and have a great time with friends and family. Boats are being designed with that in mind. They are every bit as luxurious, but they are open and are perfect for having barbecues and for the kids to play. They’re not closed in with a lot of sleeping quarters that rarely get used.”

There also were more boats on land, although Zimbalist did not have specific numbers. Show organizers expanded exhibitor space and heightened promotional activities.

Regarded as one of the top 10 yachting events in the United States and attracting buyers and sellers from around the world, the Palm Beach show featured about $1.3 billion worth of yachts, boats and accessories from the world’s leading marine manufacturers, including hundreds of boats ranging from small inflatables and center consoles to fishing boats and superyachts as large as 200 feet.

Soundings Trade Only is owned by Active Interest Media, which also owns Show Management.

This article originally appeared in the May 2014 issue.

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