Providence show sees bigger crowds

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In the first year of the Rhode Island Marine Trades Association’s ownership of the Providence Boat Show, the group tried to step up the show’s interactive content with the addition of sailboats, seminars and demonstrations.

The approach paid off. The 2014 show sold out and had a 15 percent increase in exhibition space sales, RIMTA executive director Wendy Mackie said. “You hate to turn people away, but it was great to have so much interest.”

A total of 9,600 people attended the Jan. 31-Feb. 2 show and ticket revenue was up 20 percent from last year.

Although the trade group had only owned the show for 100 days leading up to the 2014 event, plenty of content was added.

“There’s definitely a different feel from the show this year,” Mackie told Trade Only Today on opening day. “We had so much help from the Newport Exhibition Group, the former owners, and it was really nice to hear exhibitors be so excited for the show. I’ve never heard that before. We’ve worked really hard for the past 100 days.”

A new pavilion was added as a show hub, and it featured a tiki bar-style demonstration area and stage, surrounded by tiki bar tables. A backdrop hung behind the stage featuring a snippet of Rhode Island’s beautiful shoreline.

Two “Boats Work for Rhode Island” areas, sponsored by Jamestown Distributors, showcased Rhode Island’s marine career-training resources, including high school programs at Chariho, Warwick and Tiverton and trade-school courses at the International Yacht Restoration School and the New England Institute of Technology. The show also featured two seminar series: sportfishing, and navigation and seamanship.

On the show’s opening day, Don Helger, of Don’s Marine Inc., sold a 247 Robalo, a brand he just took on in the fall.

He also carries the Parker brand and mentioned excitedly that he also sold a 25-footer to Capt. Bruce Borges, who was featured prominently on the cover of the premiere edition of Angler’s Journal, which was circulating at the show; Borges was also profiled in the magazine, which was created by editors and writers from Active Interest Media’s Marine Group, including Soundings and Power & Motoryacht magazines.

“The saltwater fish segment is slowly climbing,” Helger said. “We have an advantage with Parker because nobody builds a boat like Parker. It’s in a class by itself. And now with Robalo, I’m learning that because of the pricing and workmanship and quality we may have an advantage there, too. Anglers are anglers, and there’s pent-up demand. And a lot of people are getting out of cruisers.”

At the conclusion of the show, Rob Lyons, of Ocean House Marina, walked out having sold six new powerboats in the 20-foot range, four of them to new customers he met for the first time at the show; Bill Burke, of Lakeview Marine, tallied nine boat sales, with eight to new customers; and Steve Arnold, of MarineMax, had several boat sales, all to new customers.

On the show’s opening day, Shawn Rogan, of Sterling Associates, wrote some deals, saying the show was “not bad for a Friday.” Rogan said he has been working the Providence show for 15 years.

“There are a lot of the same faces that come by,” he said. “The average number of years people keep their boat is around four years, so I’ve had people who’ve bought three or four boats from me.”

Sterling had a “great year in 2013,” he said. “January is typically a slow month, but the phones have been ringing. So we’re optimistic for a good year.”

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