Southern boat shows report solid sales

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Two more winter boat shows are in the books and both had positive outcomes, in one case despite many obstacles.

The 56th annual Houston International Boat, Sport & Travel Show, which wrapped up last Sunday at Reliant Center, reported better-than-expected attendance in the wake of a first-time forced shutdown and widespread flooding.

The Jan. 6-15 show, the largest of its kind in the country, was required to shut its doors during its first Saturday of operation, Jan. 7, because of an NFL playoff game at Reliant Stadium, which is adjacent to Reliant Center. In addition, torrential rains and flood waters in Houston the following Monday prevented consumers, and even exhibitors, from getting to the show.

“Considering all the obstacles we faced this year, we did really well. Not surprisingly, overall attendance was not where we wanted it to be, but when you have to shut down for one day and then you deal with major flooding two days later, this is to be expected,” show president Ken Lovell said in a statement.

Lovell credits publicity regarding the first-ever shutdown of the show for the playoff game for a more than 15 percent boost in attendance the following day, Sunday, from the same day last year.

He said the 10-day show might seek different dates next year in case the Texans once again make the playoffs.

Despite the hardships, Lovell said sales were steady. He says attendees were in a buying mood and that dealers are cautiously optimistic about a stronger 2012 boating season.

Last weekend’s 38th annual Stuart (Fla.) Boat Show exceeded the expectations of vendors, the show producer and the Marine Industry Association of the Treasure Coast, organizers said in a statement.

“We had 11,000 people through the gate this weekend, which was very cool. But more importantly was the feedback I’ve been getting from the dealers that were at the show, telling me they sold product,” show producer Rick Allen, of AllSports Productions, said in a statement.

Allen confirmed that dealers sold 40 boats during the weekend. He said a majority of the boats that sold were “blue-collar” boats, the segment that has taken the brunt of the economic downturn.

Next year’s show is scheduled for Jan. 11-13.

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