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Toronto organizers report show results

Organizers of the Toronto International Boat Show — an economic bellwether for the Canadian boating industry — reported sales that exceeded conservative expectations, with a majority of product categories experiencing positive results.

More than 500 manufacturers, dealers and marine suppliers sold out more than a million square feet of the Direct Energy Centre at Toronto’s Exhibition Place for the 57th annual show, which ran Jan. 9-18.

“I wish the show could go on for another 10 days — we’ve had our best-ever sales of Chris-Craft — and this was our best show in years,” Pride Marine Group president Paul Nickel said in a statement. “Overall, most of our success is due to our brand, but it’s been a very good experience this year — and we’re set up for a great next few months with all the contacts we’ve made.”

The 2015 attendance was 70,174, a 3 percent decrease from 2014. But the high quality of show attendee seemed to make the difference this year for Matt French, director of sales and marketing at Desmasdons Boatworks.

“One of our best years,” French said. “There just seemed to be much more consumer confidence, and though there may have been fewer people, those that were here were here to buy boats. Our engagement ratio is 40 to 50 percent better this year over last.”

“It was a good show, and I think it’s because the people are here for a purpose — they’re already educated, they know what they want and they’ve done their homework online,” Gordon Bay’s Ben Hatherley said. “We’ve also seen more first-time buyers, and that’s a great opportunity to create a relationship and sustain it.”

Chuck Howell, of Forest River Marine, echoed the sentiment regarding smarter consumers. “The Internet has changed everything — people come to the show knowing what they want and challenging all of us salespeople to deal with them in a different, even more informed way.”

Naylor Systems has been manufacturing docks and lifts for 40 years. “This year’s show was better than last year, and last year’s show was great,” owner Wendell Naylor said.

Derek Tamargo, who represents Yacht Controller out of Miami, said he spoke to more people, got more leads and made more sales than last year. “Over the last four years, this was definitely the best — and we signed up some new dealers, as well.”

Another big winner during the 10-day run of the show was Roula Angelis at Dreamcast Marine Canvas Ltd. “We paid for the show in the first three hours on the first Saturday and just kept progressing from there.”

Chris Wert, of Hurst Marina near Ottawa, was very pleased with his results coming out of this year’s show. “Our brand-new line of Cutwater boats really found a market — we surprised a lot of people, I think. The trawler style and unique design features of these boats made a real impact, and we’re very happy.”

Show manager Cynthia Hare said the general feeling on the show floor was positive.

“I think a majority of exhibitors are going home with a positive start to the year as a result of solid sales as well as leads that will spell success over the coming months,” Hare said. “Attendance was down slightly, but the people who came to the show this year were definitely motivated to buy, and we’re very pleased that most boat brands and accessories had a strong show.”

The Toronto show is owned and produced by Canadian Boat Shows Inc. In generating more than $354 million in economic impact to the region, it remains one of the largest consumer boat shows in North America.

Dates for the 2016 show are Jan. 8-17.

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