Poor spring weather slowed the start of the season in the marine industry, but if the Kellogg Marine Dealer Trade Show is an accurate barometer the industry is finishing 2014 strongly and building momentum for 2015.
Exhibitors at the Connecticut show, which was held Thursday and Friday at the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, received visits from more than 900 dealerships, representing about 2,000 people, a record turnout for the event, said Kellogg Marine sales director Ken Ferleger.
Ferleger said the annual show also set a record for sales. Exhibitors said they talked with dealers from as far away as Florida to the south and Chicago in the Midwest.
“There is a renewed optimism in the marine industry that has people looking forward to investing in their businesses,” Ferleger said late Friday afternoon as the show wound down. “This show is the start of that” as dealers place orders for next season, he said, and the sales “are going to be really strong, the most ever at this show, and we’re really excited about it.”
“I think [the show] is a real good indication of the upswing in the marine industry in the past two years and where it’s going.”
3M Marine Products business manager David Davidson said his company’s sales at the show were “comparable to what we did last year, and last year was a record year for us here. This is always the biggest show for us saleswise.”
Davidson’s division is focused on the marine aftermarket. He said sales have been helped this year by new products such as the Cubitron line of abrasives and power tools.
Davidson said his staff had spoken at the Kellogg show with dealers from Fort Lauderdale, the Carolinas, the Mid-Atlantic and Chicago.
“I think [the strength of the Kellogg event] shows the market is going to be up in 2015 from 2014, judging from the number of people who are telling us how busy they are and the number of boats they have to work on,” he said.
Chilly, wet conditions have delayed the arrival of spring boating for the past two years, but Davidson said dealers were not buying less at the show because they fear a repeat of those conditions next spring.
“We’ve never had three bad springs in a row, so they’re cautiously optimistic,” he said.
Standard Horizon marine division sales manager Don Walsh also said he saw no indication that weather worries were a factor in dealers’ purchases.
“Nobody’s worried about that,” he said. “I feel I’ve had a much better show this year than last year, and I thought I had a pretty good show last year.”
Bob Donat, vice president of sales for the Northeast at AkzoNobel for the Interlux and Awlgrip brands, said his company has had a strong year and he said new products from Interlux and Awlgrip have driven some of the growth. He said his sales at the show were up from last year.
“[Dealers are] buying as much as they did last year and maybe a little bit more,” he said, adding, “The boatbuilders are seeing a little bit of daylight.”
Ken Taranto, vice president of marine aftermarket system sales at the Dometic Group, said his company is continuing to see strong national sales growth.
“Some of it has been affected by weather, but when you average it out, it’s been a good year,” he said.
Taranto was pleased with Dometic’s sales at the Kellogg show and he said the company also had good results this fall at the Fort Lauderdale and Annapolis, Md., shows.
“I think this is a continuation of a good, positive trend of the last six months and the outlook for next year is great,” he said.
Taylor Made Products national sales manager Mike Hauser said his company’s new fenders with a swirl color pattern were “incredibly well received” this year and that Taylor had strong sales at the Kellogg show.
What will 2015 bring? “I think we have fewer factors working against us, so that gives us an opportunity for a good year next year,” he said.
He watches developments affecting GDP growth, stability in the housing market, consumer confidence and gasoline prices, but like everyone else in the industry, he knows how important good spring weather also will be.
“Weather trumps all of that,” he said.