Organizers report healthy increases in attendance, boats displayed and exhibitor revenue
Signs of better times for the industry continued this spring with a successful Palm Beach International Boat Show.
Ticket sales at the March 22-25 show increased 6 percent from last year, according to Show Management, organizers of the event. Exhibitor revenue rose 5 percent. The number of boats — new and used — 100 feet and larger was up by 35 percent, and the number of boats from 80 to 100 feet increased by 29 percent, according to Show Management. One of the yachts on display — Diamonds Are Forever, a 200-foot Benetti — was the largest in the 27-year history of the show.
“It was a very good show,” Show Management vice president and COO Andrew Doole says. “We were up in attendance. We were up in the number of exhibitors, compared to last year, and the weather was almost perfect throughout the weekend. So we had a great event.”
Doole says there was increased sales activity at February’s Yacht & Brokerage Show in Miami Beach — another Show Management event. “So we went into Palm Beach hoping for the same and that is certainly what happened,” he says. “People have the desire and we’re hoping now more will have the confidence to pull the trigger and buy the boat.”
The Palm Beach show ranks as one of the top 10 boat shows in the nation, according to Show Management. More than $350 million worth of boats, yachts and accessories were on display. This year’s expansion into Palm Harbor Marina, which added more big-boat inventory, contributed to the show’s success, Doole says. Show Management is looking forward to further growth at the 2013 show and Doole reports that some brokers already have committed to increasing their displays.
Ready to buy
Many show-goers come to Palm Beach ready to buy, says Mike Strassel of HMY Yacht Sales. HMY represents Viking, Maritimo, Grand Banks, Princess and Tiara. “It might be one of the best-attended shows by actual buyers,” Strassel says. “We chose to make our largest display here at the Palm Beach show because buyers, after attending Fort Lauderdale and attending Miami and narrowing down their searches, will come here and close deals. We do a lot of business at this show and it is an important part of our yearly sales program.”
HMY sold an 84-foot 2007 Lazzara at the show and has several deals brewing on new boats, according to general manager Tom Sanders. “Across the board — meaning new boats and brokerage — we had good activity,” Sanders says. “The show was very encouraging in regard to new-boat sales activity, which has been largely absent for the last five years. The show was a breakthrough, compared to the last couple years. Brokerage was good; brokerage was strong.”
The Lazzara deal was negotiated and structured on the same day the buyer stepped aboard the yacht, Sanders says. “We had other brokerage activity going on, but that was certainly out of the blue and unexpected — and representative of how we thought the show went,” he says. “Our overall presence at the show made a difference, certainly.”
HMY had nearly 100 new and brokerage boats from 31 to 162 feet on display — the most by a single exhibitor in Show Management’s history of producing boat shows. “That is a big achievement and an amazing vote of confidence for us,” Show Management CEO Efrem “Skip” Zimbalist III said during a press conference on opening day.
HMY’s effort paid off, according to Sanders. “Having such a large presence caused people to stop and work with our people,” he says. “They saw so many boats and so many different opportunities that they stopped and did business with us. We put virtually every new boat we have in stock and every trade-in into this show. On top of that, we worked with our brokerage owners to get as many of those boats as we could to the show. We are talking about boats from $150,000 to $36.9 million.”
Niche builder pleased
Small-boat dealers and manufacturers also reported healthy sales activity, Sanders says. “We kicked some tail,” Dragonfly Boatworks president Mark Castlow says. “It was a great show for us and other small-boat niche builders.”
The Vero Beach, Fla., builder took four orders on its new 14-foot Marsh Hen skiff and sold 16 of its paddleboards. The skiffs, with a 9.8-hp Evinrude, are $10,000; the 13-foot, 6-inch Dragonfly paddleboards are about $2,200.
“It seems like people’s attitudes have changed,” Castlow says. “They are much more into getting back on the water right now. Last year and the year before, everyone was so mentally bruised and not in that mindset. There’s a relaxation now; people have resolved where they are at and they want to have fun on the water.”
David R. Cherubini, president and CEO of Cherubini Yachts in Delran, N.J., chose to debut his 25-foot sport cruiser, the 255, at the show. The company also builds 20- and 24-foot runabouts and two sailboats, a 40- and a 44-footer. “We’ve done the show for quite a few years,” Cherubini said at the event. “The West Palm Beach show has always been a winner for us. We have a lot of friends in the area and a lot of clients here who have purchased our products here.”
Seeing the aisles loaded with people, exhibitors in the accessories tent were upbeat. Michael O’Connor, a customer service representative for Atlantic Marine Electronics of Riviera Beach, Fla., says the show seems to get stronger every year. “It’s the first day, but the crowd is looking really good,” O’Connor says. “We’re hoping it is a great show for us. The economy is looking better — and the stock market.”
In March 2010, the Palm Beach event was the first to show signs of growth after a couple of years of declines in boat sales and exhibitor participation, Zimbalist says. “Since then, every show that [Active Interest Media] has held has been better than the previous show in terms of exhibitor participation and attendance,” he says. “We had a slight dip in Fort Lauderdale in November  because of the deluge of rain. Otherwise, everything has pointed up. The growth hasn’t been dramatic or double-digit, but it has been good, steady growth in terms of attendance and exhibitor participation.”
This article originally appeared in the May 2012 issue.