Overall attendance at the 30th annual Suncoast Boat Show in downtown Sarasota, Fla., was down from last year by 18 percent because of heavy, steady rains on Saturday, but overall exhibitor revenue was up about 10 percent, according to Show Management, producers of the three-day event.
The attendance on Saturday was down 50 percent, compared to the same day during last year’s show, according to Show Management. Boats ranged from 10-foot dinghies to a 66-foot Viking, and marine gear and products filled four tents.
There were 133 boats shown in the water, compared to 119 last year, according to Show Management. The number of boats on land was unavailable.
The number of vendors was about the same as last year, according to Show Management, but vendor feedback indicated that sales were solid and that the quality of potential customers was higher than last year.
“We found that there is a great demographic here in Sarasota,” said Peter Cook, president of New World Marine Inc. in Pompano Beach, Fla., which has been in business for nearly 20 years. Its main product is the Fendergrip.
“The quality of the customer in Sarasota is excellent. As opposed to waiting to make a decision they are more inclined to make a decision now and buy something at the show, so it has worked out well for us,” Cook said.
He said late Sunday afternoon — the last day of the show — that he had sold 500 Fendergrips (five pieces per sale), a healthy number for a show this size.
On Friday, boat dealers and brokers were enthused about the quality of customers, but fretting the forecast for the following day.
“Traffic was heavy this morning from 11 [a .m.] to 2 [p .m.],” said Mark Karampelas, a broker with the Tom George Yacht Group in Dunedin, Fla. “It has slowed down a little bit, but we have had a pretty good turnout and there are some qualified people here. I think everyone is a little concerned about the weather tomorrow. Overall it has been upbeat. We’re looking forward to the weekend.”
“I hope the weather holds out,” said Tim DeVries, a factory representative from Stamas Yacht Inc., which is based in Tarpon Springs, Fla. “I’m a little nervous. You spend all this money bringing your product here and then the high winds come and the sideways rain. Like in Fort Lauderdale. The rain washed out half the show.”
DeVries was hoping for a passing shower on Saturday, but it rained steadily for several hours Saturday afternoon.
On Saturday morning the show “seemed like it was getting ready to take off, with quite a few people in our tent,” said John Wurtz, vice president of Florida Bow Thrusters in Merritt Island, Fla. “And then the rain came, and it just flattened out. Boaters aren’t afraid of the rain. If they’re already out in it they don’t care. But they’re not going to leave home and come out in it, either.”
Still, Wurtz sold a combined half dozen bow thruster and hydraulic swim platforms and expects to complete sales on another six, he told Trade Only this morning. “Everyone always wants to have that ‘fabulous’ show, but overall it was a good show,” he said. “We did get some sales, but unfortunately the weather had a big impact.”
Wurtz remains positive about the rest of the year. “I probably talked to about 15 to 20 people who were buying boats,” he said. “When I hear that people are buying boats, that means the economy is heading up and we’re going to probably be getting phone calls.”
— Chris Landry