Organizers of the 30th annual Palm Beach International Boat Show say attendance jumped by 17 percent from last year, and manufacturers, dealers and brokerages report strong sales and promising leads.
“The consumer was back in the market on all levels,” says Show Management CEO Efrem “Skip” Zimbalist III. “Attendance hit an all-time high, and the total number of boats overall was up 8 percent — the highest it has been since 2007 and very close to a record high.”
The show’s increase in boats 60 feet and under stands out as a sign of market strength that will support long-term industry growth, says Zimbalist.
Manufacturers and brokerage companies not only sold new and brokerage boats, but they also booked sea trials and forged what they say are solid relationships for future sales.
“Attitudes are good, and there are a lot of boat buyers out there, ready and willing to purchase,” says Tim Derrico, national sales manager of HMY Yacht Sales, which had more than 60 new and brokerage boats on display. “We probably made about 10 deals at the boat show between brokerage boats, new boats and trade-ins. This includes the sale of three Cruisers yachts from 32 to 48 feet and two Princess yachts. In brokerage, we sold a Grand Banks 54. Activity was really good. All of our [sales] guys are excited about the follow-ups they have to work on.”
Other brokerage and trade-in sales for HMY included a 74 Ocean Alexander, a 39 Tiara Sovran, a 50 Post, a 40 Cabo, a 31 Gulfstream and a 60 Viking, Derrico reported.
Denison Yacht Sales sold at least five yachts, including a Monte Carlo MC4, a Beneteau GT 44 and a Beneteau GT 49, says president Bob Denison. “It was a really good show for us,” says Denison, whose company displayed 23 boats, including a 47-foot Fountaine Pajot catamaran, a 48-foot Greenline and a Monte Carlo MCY 70. “We saw a lot of existing clients and new clients. We had a very noticeable increase in traffic — probably about 20 percent from last year at both of our displays. The event was really solid, especially on Saturday and Sunday.”
Palm Beach’s popularity has grown in part because of the increased number of consumers traveling from the Northeast and Midwest to attend the show, says Denison. “It’s also the last major show for the state of Florida until the fall,” he adds. “Years ago, it was more of a regional show.”
The show’s national — and international — appeal has grown, says Zimbalist. “Five years ago we changed the name and added ‘International’ to the Palm Beach Boat Show, recognizing our desire and growing attraction of the show to the international market,” Zimbalist says. “We had in this show yachts from England, from Italy, from Germany, from Spain, from Turkey, from China, as well as the great boats built here.”
Mark Castlow operates Dragonfly Boatworks out of Vero Beach, Fla. He says the “festival-like” atmosphere of the Palm Beach show helps attract boaters. “People like being outside and on the water,” says Castlow, who sold four of his custom skiffs — a DragonFly 17 Classic with a custom teak cockpit sole and three DragonFly 15s. “This year we were really catering to the convertible sportfish owners, with our boats as tenders.”
Castlow’s business also builds paddleboards. He sold about 14 of them at the show.
For Galati Yacht Sales, this was the second year at the Palm Beach show, says vice president and general manager Darren Plymale. “The Palm Beach show has provided us with another opportunity to follow up on the leads from the Miami show and display our Maritimo and Rampage brands, along with our trades and brokerage yachts,” he says. “Many of our west coast of Florida customers like making the trip, especially those that were unable to attend the Miami show or those seeking to narrow their purchase decisions.”
Hunt Yachts president Peter Van Lancker calls Palm Beach the company’s favorite Florida show. “We didn’t take any orders yet but are following up with sea trials,” he says. “Interest was better than in Miami. Now we just need to turn the interest into a few sales, and we will be satisfied.”
In addition to reinforcing relationships with current customers and finding new ones, manufacturers and builders use the show to develop industry relationships.
“The quality of the prospective customers was positive, and in addition to a lot of B2C action, we had the chance to develop serious B2B activity,” says Alessandro Diomedi, Arcadia Yachts Americas sales manager. “One of our main goals is to expand our dealer network, and the show provided a good platform for that. Through collaboration with our current U.S. East Coast distributor, HMY Yachts, our strategic location at the show and marketing initiatives that began at the 2014 Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, Arcadia Yachts now has developed consistent brand awareness among our audiences.”
That goes for Denison Yacht Sales, too, with its Beneteau powerboats, Bob Denison says. “When we first started representing Beneteau about four years ago we heard a lot of, ‘I didn’t know Beneteau made powerboats.’ We just don’t hear that anymore. The quality of the product is proving itself.”
Zimbalist says there were more megayachts at this year’s show than ever before, and the number of boats from 40 to 60 feet jumped by 17 percent from last year.
The four-day event (March 26-29) showcased $1.4 billion worth of yachts, boats and accessories. There were 626 boats in the water, including 80 yachts of more than 100 feet and 60 boats from 80 to 90 feet, says Zimbalist. And the number of boats on display on land surged by 20 percent, for a total of 400 boats from 10 to 38 feet.
The largest yacht and second-largest in the history of the Palm Beach show — a 200-foot 2010 Lurssen, the Aurora — was also on display.
“Various new water-sports attractions and entertainment helped make this show a super weekend for people who love boating,” says Zimbalist.
The new attractions included AquaZone by the Nautical Ventures Marine Superstore, which had a 40,000-gallon demonstration pool with in-water demos and hands-on testing of paddleboards, kayaks and other water-sports products.
The Palm Beach show is owned and sponsored by the Marine Industries Association of Palm Beach County Inc., managed and produced by Show Management, presented by Palm Harbor Marina and co-sponsored by Gosling’s Rum, Yachts International magazine, Smallwoods Yachtwear, Geico, Budweiser, Land’s End and the Palm Beach Post. Active Interest Media is the parent company of Show Management and Soundings Trade Only.
This article originally appeared in the May 2015 issue.