Providence show sees hope, some sales

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The 17th annual Providence Boat Show this year saw booth and exhibitor space confined to one floor, but buyers turned out despite the cold weather.

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Jon Lyons, a dealer for Ocean House Marina in Charlestown, R.I., said he sold six boats at the show, which was held Jan. 7-10 at the Rhode Island Convention Center in Providence, R.I. The dealership represents Hydra-Sports, Maritime, Hurricane, Polar Kraft and Regulator boats as well as Aqua Patio and Sweetwater pontoon boats.

"The range of interest was between 18 and 26 feet, and we definitely walked away from the show very optimistic," said Lyons. "This is the only big show we do in this area besides the Newport International Boat Show in the fall."

A newcomer was Winnisquam (N.H.) Marine, which represents Premier pontoon boats. Vice president Ryan Crawford says they had contracts signed at the show for two custom-built pontoon vessels: a 231 Alante model and a 220 Sunsation model.

"This is the first show of the season for Premier and we are all very excited," said Crawford. "We are definitely going to come back every year from now on; we got such a positive response."

Show director Nancy Piffard says the attendance was on par with last year's - about 12,000 - despite the earlier dates and smaller floor space.

"I wasn't sure what to expect this year, but knowing our exhibitors sold products is really exciting and it exceeding my expectations," said Piffard. "It's a good feeling and hopefully other shows after this will be seeing the same thing."

Piffard said the biggest change this year was the dealers coming back to the show, but bringing less product with them.

"The dates were so early this year - it was tough getting a hold of exhibitors throughout the holidays," says Piffard. "But the message is out there - this is the best time to get the best deals on boats because the prices will be going back up."

Piffard says last year the show opened at noon on a Thursday. After polling the exhibitors, they decided to open at 4 p.m. on a Thursday this year.

"People were just getting back to a serious workweek after the holidays," says Piffard. "They're just getting back to their desks, so we thought it made more sense to open later."

Piffard said the show has confirmed the first weekend in February for the event next year and hopes the later date will draw bigger crowds and more new exhibitors.

- Elizabeth Ellis

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