Dealers, vendors and manufacturers say the Palm Beach International Boat Show got off to a strong start Thursday with a healthy crowd of "quality" customers. Exhibitors met show-goers with high-end merchandise to appease an audience that includes buyers of high-end boats and engines, electronics, gear and supplies.
"We've been here the last three years," Garmin marine regional sales manager David Dunn said. "This show is unique. You don't get the traffic you might at other shows, but you get a wide range of boaters, from megayacht owners to owners of small boats."
With the release of Garmin's 8000 series products, which are aimed at the megayacht market, Garmin made sure it established a prominent presence in West Palm Beach, Dunn said. "We need to get our products in front of the people," he said after showing the functions of the GPSMAP 8000 Glass Helm series. "We have so many new products. It would be silly for us not to attend."
This is Jeff Cavanagh's first time exhibiting at the show. "I heard it is growing at a rapid rate," said Cavanagh, president of Grand-Craft, of Holland, Mich., builders of mahogany boats. "It's early in the show, but I already see a great turnout of qualified buyers."
While displaying his product at the Miami show two years ago, industry colleagues told Cavanagh that "this boat would really do well at the Palm Beach boat show because there are a lot of buyers who appreciate a contemporary classic." That boat is a 36-foot Grand-Craft, a yacht based on the "the late ’20s and early ’30s commuters popular on the upper East Coast." She's powered with twin Ilmore V-8 gas engines packing 382 hp each.
Click play for scenes from the show.
For GO2 Global Yachting, the Palm Beach show serves as an opportunity to introduce its product — an environmentally friendly fuel additive that boosts diesel efficiency — to a different market, said Richard Franklin, the company’s managing director.
"We are exploring more areas of the market — more than purely megayachts," he said. The Palm Beach show is more sportfish-oriented than some shows in Europe, he said.
GO2 Global Yachting is a partnership between Cerion Energy and ECO superyacht that handles worldwide sales, marketing and commercial partnerships for GO2, Cerion Energy’s DAME Award-winning nanoparticle diesel fuel additive.
About 120 superyachts are using GO2 on a regular basis, with a 90 percent re-ordering rate, Franklin said. (Click here for information about the origin of the product.)
The Palm Beach show serves as an effective venue to reach specific clients, said Ferretti Group vice president of marketing for the Americas Brett Keating. Ferretti is showcasing four new boats — the Pershing 74, the Riva 52 Rivale, the Bertram 54 and the Ferretti 620, she said. In addition, there are about 12 brokerage boats presented by Allied Marine in Fort Lauderdale.
"The Palm Beach Boat Show is unique," she said. "You have clients that live in the Palm Beach area and often have homes in other areas, and this is the season when they come to their homes in Palm Beach. You won't find the same people going to Miami or FLIBS.
"It's not as big as the other two shows, so you really have to think about what is going to be sold into this market. You have to make sure you bring the boats that are appropriate for this area."
Robert L. Johnstone III, founder and CEO of MJM Yachts of Newport, had his MJM40z and MJM36z Down East-style express cruisers in the water. He also was promoting a new boat on the drawing board — the MJM50 — due out in the summer of 2014.
"This show certainly seems like it is growing. It's a nice venue, with a nice surrounding area," Johnstone said. "We've had good success here.”
Mark "Goose" Goosic talked about the show's quality buyers. "A lot of people are repowering their boats," said Goosic, general sales manager for Cummins Power South in Fort Myers, Fla. "There is a lot of follow-up at this show, and it's encouraging. People after the show ask me to come look at their boats so I can find out which of our engines is the right fit."
"This will be the largest Palm Beach International Boat Show since 2008, with healthy increases in the number of boats and size of display area,” Efrem "Skip" Zimbalist III, CEO of Active Interest Media and Show Management, the producer of the four-day event, said Thursday. (AIM also owns Soundings Trade Only.)
"Needless to say, we are thrilled with the size of the show this year. It is the biggest show since 2008, which is significant because that is when things started to go down," Zimbalist told about 75 guests at the boat show media briefing and breakfast.
The amount of land display area is up 22 percent -- 89,000 square feet this year, compared with 73,000 square feet 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. "The show has been growing multidimensionally. We have some of the biggest boats we have ever had."
The largest is the 223-foot Kismet.
More manufacturers of boats and marine products are also attending the show, Zimbalist said. For instance, Viking Yachts representatives will be at the HMY Yacht Sales display, he said.
Zimbalist offered statistics during the breakfast to illustrate the show's strength and growth.
• New boats in the water are up 31 percent from 2012. There are 244 new boats this year, compared with 186 in 2012.
• Of that increase, 44 boats are under 60 feet, nine are 60 to 80 feet and five are over 80 feet.
• The number of brokerage boats in the water is up 25 percent; there are 299 this year, versus 239 in 2012.
West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio; Mike Antheil, executive director of the Marine Industries Association of Palm Beach County; and Daniel F. Martell, president and CEO of the Economic Council of Palm Beach County, also spoke.
"The marine industry has an annual direct economic impact of $1.35 billion in Palm Beach County alone and results in 20,000 jobs a year, which really quite amazing," said Muoio said.
— Chris Landry