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Palm Beach show reports attendance increase

Organizers of the Palm Beach International Boat Show say attendance increased by 3.7 percent from last year, and manufacturers and brokerages are reporting that sales were strong.

Denison Yacht Sales sold two boats — a Beneteau 34 GT (Gran Turismo) and a 52 Buddy Davis sportfish, and qualified clients are interested in two of the company’s brokerage boats.

“While the crowds seemed a little lighter to us, people brought their checkbooks, which is great,” Denison Yacht Sales president Bob Denison said. “I am glad we did [the show] and we will continue to invest in the show. From a brokerage’s point of view, it’s everybody’s favorite show because it has a very qualified crowd and it’s relaxed and it’s a well-run show.”

Denison carries five brands — Greenline, Beneteau and Beneteau GT, Austin Parker and Monte Carlo.

The 2013 event was the largest show since 2008, according to Efrem "Skip" Zimbalist III, CEO of Active Interest Media and Show Management, producer of the four-day event that ended Sunday.

AIM also owns Soundings Trade Only.

The amount of land display area shot up 22 percent to 89,000 square feet this year, compared with 73,000 in 2012.

"We filled every available square inch and went scrounging for more space and still had to turn away a few exhibitors," Zimbalist said at a media breakfast on the first day of the show. "The show has been growing multidimensionally. We have some of the biggest boats we have ever had."

The largest was the 223-foot Kismet.

The number of new boats in the water increased 31 percent, from 186 new boats at the 2012 show to 244 this year. The 58 boats that made up that increase consisted of 44 boats under 60 feet; nine from 60 to 80 feet; and five larger than 80 feet.

The number of brokerage boats in the water was up by 25 percent — there were 299 in 2013, compared with 239 in 2012. Total boats — new and used — were up by 28 percent, from 425 to 543.

More manufacturers of boats and marine products attended the show, according to Zimbalist. For instance, Viking Yachts representatives were available at the HMY Yacht Sales display, he said.

Representatives from Ferretti Yachts were on site, too, along with their brokerage arm, Allied Marine. I interviewed Brett Keating, the Ferretti Group’s vice president of marketing for the Americas.

Ferretti Yachts and Allied prefer not to disclose specifics about the number of boats sold at the show, but “it was a positive show — it was great,” Keating said. “And we were quite happy with the results, and next year we’ll definitely be back, and hopefully with even more boats. That’s the plan.”

Ferretti and Allied representatives noticed an increase in qualified buyers this year, Keating said. “The show has the potential to grow even more — in attendance and in number of boats,” she said.

Mike Strassel, a broker with RJC Yacht Services & Charter in Fort Lauderdale, sold a 2003 54-foot Hatteras at the show.

Strassel said he and some other brokers believe that local qualified buyers — boaters from Fort Lauderdale and Fort Pierce — are skipping the Miami International Boat Show to avoid the traffic and parking challenges. “But the local Floridian is going to the Palm Beach boat show and buying boats — it’s a great boat show,” he said.

The show’s relaxed atmosphere draws customers to the Palm Beach event, said Strassel. “It has a real community spirit and lots of boats, from $200,000 10-year-old small motoryachts all the way up to yachts like the $10.9 million 147-foot Lady M that I had at the boat show.”

You’ll also find niche markets at the show, such as retro mahogany runabouts, motoryachts and dayboats. Roger O’Neill, owner of O’Neill Craft, sold two of his 28-foot retro cruisers. His boats consist of fiberglass hulls and teak or mahogany from the hull up. He showed two of his vessels, which list at $252,000, at the show.

“We had lots of interest,” he said. “We had people on the boats all day, every day.”

— Chris Landry




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