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Miami show opens with high hopes

MIAMI BEACH - The 69th annual Miami International Boat Show and Strictly Sail Miami opens today and organizers are hopeful boat buyers will be out in full force.

"I think we're expecting a good show. I think we're expecting more people than last year," Thom Dammrich, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association, told Soundings Trade Only. "Because it's a little bit smaller than last year, it's going to seem like it's much more crowded."

"I think there's a great deal of optimism based on the early shows that they'll be a buying crowd here," he added.

Around 2,000 exhibitors are on hand for this year's show, down around 200 from 2009. Many of the NMMA's shows have been smaller this year, but that's not necessarily bad - smaller footprints mean more dense crowds, Dammrich said.

"That just creates a level of energy at the show that we haven't seen in a few years," he said. "I think most dealers are reporting good sales at the shows - not everybody, but certainly there seems to be a lot of activity in smaller boats, and we're getting a lot of feedback that dealers are seeing the first-time boat buyer again that they haven't seen for three or four years."

Last year, 96,736 people attended the Miami show, down 26 percent from 2008. The NMMA is expecting more than 100,000 attendees at this year's event, which runs through Monday at the Miami Beach Convention Center and the Sea Isle Marina & Yachting Center.

The 22nd annual Yacht & Brokerage Show runs concurrently with the Miami show.

Later today, Dammrich is presenting his annual State of the Industry address. In previewing that speech, he noted that 2009 should turn out to be a little better than previously predicted. It had been estimated that about 135,000 units were sold last year, but that number now looks closer to 145,000 to 150,000 units, he said.

"That's good news for the manufacturers because production was down so low last year that if we sell 150,000 boats [this year], we're probably going to have to build 150,000 boats and that's probably double what we built last year," Dammrich said.

As for 2010, sales will likely be flat this year, but a successful Miami show can bode well for a lucrative spring selling season.

"I think the industry always needs a good show in Miami, but we've been down for so long that a good show here, I think, would be a precursor to a good year and would be great for the industry's morale," Dammrich said.

— Beth Rosenberg

b.rosenberg@tradeonlytoday.com

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