The New York Boat Show, the oldest in the country at 111 years, kicked off 2016 with a 5 percent increase in attendance and left dealers confident that 2016 will deliver at least as much success as 2015.
Nearly 38,000 boating and fishing enthusiasts attended the Jan. 6-10 show at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan.
On the first day a long line was waiting at the gate when the doors opened at noon, and the traffic built throughout the day. More important, vendors say, a substantial percentage of shoppers were qualified buyers.
“That was the best Wednesday and Thursday we have ever had at the show,” says Al Steiger, founder of the regional sportfishing boatbuilder Steiger Craft. “Attendance was up, and so was the quality. We need more space.”
Chris Lufkin, a sales consultant representing EdgeWater Power Boats, echoes that sentiment. “We had a great show. We need more space to bring in more boats,” he says. “It was a great start to the season.”
National Marine Manufacturers Association president Thom Dammrich attended on the second and third days of the show, and he says the feedback was consistently positive. He says the industry regards the shows in New York and Houston, which are first out of the gate each year, as solid regional bellwethers.
“Attendance was up, as it was last year, despite the show being held so close to the holidays,” says Dammrich. “The show was packed with new product, including several boats debuting there. We saw a lot of new and interesting technology. As we know, new product and innovation drives new-boat sales.”
New or redesigned boats from Sea Ray, Boston Whaler, Malibu, Monterey, Regal and Regulator were at the show.
The regional MarineMax dealership, which again had the largest footprint at the show, displayed the latest models from Sea Ray, Azimut, Boston Whaler, Scout and Sailfish.
“We were extremely excited with the quality of the guests, and more important, we sold an Azimut 77S, the largest yacht ever sold by MarineMax at an indoor venue,” says Andrew Schneider, store manager for MarineMax Newport.
Sean Hickey, a sales consultant at Everglades Boats, says his crew came away with plenty of momentum.
“Big boats are selling,” he says. “We saw sales on site and generated at least six months of leads.”
Steve DeFeo, who founded DeFeo’s Marina in nearby Greenwood Lake, N.Y., says 2015 was the best of his 36 years in business. DeFeo carries only one line, Bennington, and he says the pontoon market shows no sign of losing momentum.
“We took seven deposits from buyers with credit approval at the show and came away with 112 leads that we’re following up on,” he says, estimating that his dealership will tie 15 boat sales directly to the show.
“I think people are feeling very confident in general,” says DeFeo, who displayed five boats ranging from $27,000 to $180,000.
“Of our seven show sales, only two are financing. The rest are paying cash. Probably only one out of 10 of our customers are financing these days,” he says. “I feel very good about this year, very good.”
Joan Maxwell, co-founder and president of North Carolina-based Regulator, says her company’s first dealers were in the Northeast and that the region continues to generate business.
“The New York show has always been important to us,” she says. “We have a lot of long-term dealers in the tri-state area, and Northern boaters have always liked [Regulator’s] mix of comfort and range for running offshore.”
Regulator displayed five boats that ranged from 23 feet to the new flagship 41 center console it introduced at the Fort Lauderdale show last fall. Maxwell says the boat has delivered the results the company hoped for, noting that hull No. 4 was at the show and that the manufacturing for purchased 41s is out to November.
Bentley Collins, vice president of marketing and sales at Maine-based Sabre and Back Cove, also regards the show as a staple.“I like being at the New York Boat Show because inevitably we meet a bunch of customers here,” he says. “We meet a lot of people we ultimately sell boats to, even if we don’t necessarily make the sales here.”
At the Hinckley/Hunt booth, Roe O’Brien, director of marketing for the Hinckley Co., said 2016 was the first time in more than five years that the Maine builder has exhibited in the Big Apple.
“We felt it was a good time to jump back into the New York market,” says O’Brien. “We’ve always sold boats in this region, and it’s one that no boatbuilder should ignore.”
Apart from customers for the high-end yachts that Hinckley, Hunt and Sabre build, there are plenty of boaters in the region who might be looking for something more modest in price, and that’s the clientele Buster’s Marine Service caters to.
The dealership, which has showrooms in Queens and Brooklyn, was honored at the show by Bayliner president Keith Yunger for generating the manufacturer’s top sales at a single location.
David Schmitt, sales manager at Buster’s, says his dealership picked up the Bayliner brand two years ago, and from 2014 to 2015 it saw 160 percent growth in sales of new Bayliner models.
“New boaters are our primary customers, and we cater to them with everything from obtaining their boating license to operation training to picking up their boat each fall for winter servicing,” Schmitt says.
At its display, Mercury Marine was touting its latest joystick and Skyhook technology. Lee Gordon, director of public relations, says the engine manufacturer looks to the show to take the industry’s pulse and talk in person to customers about trends they’re seeing.
“I was impressed at the amount of new boaters that I met at the New York show,” Gordon says. “Many of the consumers we spoke to did not own a boat and were interested in first-time ownership. That is a great sign that we as an industry are reaching people with the right messages of affordability, sustainability, and that boating is one of the most wholesome ways to spend time with family.”
When it returns in 2017, the show will have more favorable dates — Jan. 25-29 — which organizers say will separate it from the holiday season.
This article originally appeared in the February 2016 issue.