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Toronto show reports boost in attendance

Organizers of the 58th annual Toronto International Boat Show said it had 70,643 visitors, a 1 percent increase from 2015.

Organizers of the 58th annual Toronto International Boat Show said it had 70,643 visitors, a 1 percent increase from 2015, and dealers reported strong sales despite having to work hard to explain price increases to offset the weak Canadian dollar.

The Toronto show covers more than a million square feet of space. Organizers said it is home to the world’s largest indoor lake.

The event is the economic bellwether for the Canadian boating industry.

Exhibitors reported strong sales across most categories despite negative financial market conditions and a declining Canadian dollar, problems that organizers said received national media attention during the Jan. 8-17 show.

“The mood from exhibitors prior to the show was uncertain and reserved due to the economic environment,” show manager Cynthia Hare said in a statement. “Attitudes of consumers were very positive, resulting in strong sales and leads throughout the show.”

Canada’s largest marine dealer network, Pride Marine Group, said it saw robust sales across its lines from 16 to 51 feet.

“Last year was a record year for us, and this year we’re up almost 20 percent — so to say we’re excited is an understatement,” president Paul Nickel said. “It’s a result of the work we’ve done on our brand over the last few years, and it continues to get significantly stronger.”

Bob Howell, owner of Howell’s Marine and a dealer for South Bay pontoons, said last year’s show was very good, but the one this year was better.

“Our numbers are up about 25 percent, with revenues up accordingly,” Howell said.

Dave Mayhew at Boat Warehouse, which said it is the world’s largest Four Winns and Lowe dealer, said, “Pockets of the industry did very well, and the higher end looks positive. We had to work 10 times harder this year to explain the currency exchange and higher prices. … I don’t know if anyone will believe me, but with all that hard work we’ve ended up about the same as last year — and last year was great.”

The dollar situation created a bit of a “fear factor” for some, said Chris Poole, owner of Muskoka Boat Gallery and a Mastercraft dealer.

“So it was a bit tougher out there, no question,” Poole said. “But we pre-ordered most stock and had it on the ground before the dollar really sank, so it was less of an issue. Over 25 percent of our year, direct and indirect, comes from this show, and this year’s no different. We’ll come in about the same as last year, but amid such difficult circumstances that’s a big win.”

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