The Norwalk norm: quality buyers

Turnout was up at the gradually recovering September show and, as usual, many were there to do some serious shopping
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 Good early-fall weather attracted a sizable number of buyers. The NMMA said attendance was up 6 percent.

Good early-fall weather attracted a sizable number of buyers. The NMMA said attendance was up 6 percent.

The Norwalk (Conn.) International Boat Show took another step toward its prerecession size and exhibitors say buyers turned out in good numbers during the Sept. 22-25 in-water production.

Attendance was 14,839, a 6 percent increase from 2015, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association, which runs the show. Dock traffic was heavy on Friday (Sept. 23) and brought out current owners who were looking to trade up, trade down or accessorize their boats.

“The show grew by almost 20 percent this year, allowing us to offer access to more new products and more options,” says show manager Jon Pritko. “Beautiful weather was on our side throughout the weekend, and exhibitors have reported that the attendee profile was skewed toward qualified buyers, which led to a positive sales environment.”

Weather was mostly gorgeous, with the initial heat of Thursday giving way to cooler, sunny fall days the rest of the week.

The Norwalk show has traditionally been an excellent show for the company, says MarineMax Norwalk general manager David Dzurilla. “We’ve always invested a lot in this show.”

The “queen of the show,” brought by MarineMax, was a 66-foot Galeon making its Northeastern debut. The yacht had been sold to owners who took ownership six weeks earlier.

“In Norwalk we displayed a new 660 Fly, as well as a 560 Sky, both of which were generously offered by their new owners for the show,” says Bob Burke, Galeon brand manager for MarineMax. “We also had a 430 Sky.”

The 66- and 56-foot boats hadn’t previously been available in the Northeast, so it was their regional debut. “By having the larger yachts in Norwalk, it gave us the opportunity to showcase how the craftsmanship and innovation that Galeon is famous for can be scaled into larger yachts,” Burke says. “I always love to hear guests’ reaction when opening the 560 Skydeck cover to reveal a hidden bridge: ‘No way,’ [or] ‘You’ve got to be kidding me’ and ‘This is incredible’ are common responses.”

Formula boats are shown on display at the Norwalk show. Good early-fall weather attracted a sizable number of buyers. The NMMA said attendance was up 6 percent.

Formula boats are shown on display at the Norwalk show. Good early-fall weather attracted a sizable number of buyers. The NMMA said attendance was up 6 percent.

Owner Mindy Guzzone says that even though the brand was new to her and her husband, Nick, they have been loyal MarineMax customers and trusted the company to stand behind the product. The craftsmanship and layout of the yacht, which was comparable in terms of quality to the Lazzara yacht the couple had loved, sold them on the boat, she says. They did not enjoy the boat they’d had in between the Lazzara and the Galeon as well as the other two and were happy with Galeon’s price point.

“The interior, the lines, the swim platform that goes right down to the water — we’re big jet-ski people,” Guzzone says as she offers a tour of the yacht. “We love the fact that it only has three staterooms (the fourth is laundry) because you always use the fourth stateroom for storage. There’s a regular-sized fridge. They utilize the space really well on this boat.”

Bob Stanton, who was checking out the 560 Galeon, says his company, Performance AV & Security, was doing so well that he recently upsized from a 24-foot Maxum to a 40-foot Cruisers. It was an older model, but it was refurbished in 2014, and he was at the show shopping for accessories so he could continue the updates.

“My 12-year-old [stepson] has been pushing me for a bigger boat since he was 8,” Stanton says with a laugh. Asked what prompted him to make the leap, Stanton says: “Permission.”

Sea Hunt Boats sales manager Johnny Craig was attending the Norwalk show for the first time and says he was impressed with the quality of the shopper. “The boats are versatile for a family lifestyle; that’s what we’ve always adhered to,” he says of the popular 18- to 30-footers.

The Boston Whaler space was also busy, with 11 Whalers on display, says Will Rogers, head of sales for large Boston Whalers (boats with triple or quad engines). Traffic on the docks was solid. “This show’s going very well,” Rogers says. “We’re having some phenomenal weather. We’ve had good traffic all morning.”

Rogers says browsers had not only been qualified, they had also been very diverse. “This guy is a sailboater who has a couple of Whalers and wants to upsize,” Rogers says, gesturing to a man aboard the 320 Vantage. “We’ve also had a couple of megayacht captains come through looking for tenders. We’ve seen everybody today.”

Bentley Collins, of Sabre Yachts and Back Cove Yachts, was taking two prospective Sabre buyers out on Friday evening during the show for sea trials. “It’s been a typical Norwalk show, which is to say, sparser traffic than we have at some shows, but always quality buyers,” Collins says.

This article originally appeared in the November 2016 issue.

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