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A final flourish in the year's final months

If you’re encouraged by the increased attendance at fall boat shows and want to lock up your discount to the Marine Dealer Conference & Expo, read on.

We now have reports from four major fall shows — Michigan City, Tampa, Cedar Point and Newport — and all have seen increased attendance and improved sales activity.

For example, last weekend’s North American In-Water Boat Show at Cedar Point (Ohio) bucked two days of drizzle and unseasonably cold winds to still see overall attendance rise 4 percent, according to Lake Erie Marine Trades Association Ken Alvey.

Meanwhile, on the East Coast, the Newport (R.I.) International Boat Show reports that good weather generated a strong increase in attendance and overall business, according to Newport Exhibition Group director Tom Delotto. “The attitude of show visitors has really changed for the positive,” he says, “and our exhibitors have been reporting they’re either ‘ahead’ or ‘well ahead’ of last year in sales and quality leads.”

John Sima of Sima Marine (Eastlake, Ohio) concurs with that statement after exhibiting at Cedar Point. “No question attitudes are much improved. One notable change from the last few years is that this year people were again talking about moving up rather than downsizing or asking us to broker their boat to get out,” Sima said. “To wit, we sold a preowned 54-foot Cruisers and a used 46-foot Maxum - both buyers were moving up as are both sellers.”

MarineMax’s Trey Hardy (Port Clinton, Ohio) also noted change was evident at the show. “The energy was different this year. There were definitely more buyers. Prospects weren’t saying to us ‘we’re gonna wait’ like they had in recent years,” Hardy said. “And we saw much stronger interest in boats over 30 feet, especially in 34- to 38-foot models.”

Special events and attractions built into these four shows likely contributed to their rise in attendance. Examples include: Michigan City’s Alligator Show; Tampa’s “Deadliest Catch” TV show stars; Cedar Point’s Smage Brothers from TV’s “America’s Got Talent”; and Newport’s Discover Boating Hands-On Skills Training series.

Bottom line: the trend in fall shows appears to be all going in the right direction. And it seems to reflect the 12.9 percent industrywide sales surge for July that was reported to Statistical Surveys by 31 early reporting states. Next up: Detroit, Norwalk and West Palm Beach.

Dealer conference discount

A savings of $50 per person is worth taking action now. The early-bird discount for the Marine Dealer Conference & Expo will end Friday. Designed specifically for marine dealers, the conference should be on every dealer’s calendar. This year, the speaker budget has been doubled, bringing in experts who focus on providing actionable content that can be adapted in every dealership right away.

It’s no secret I believe the MDCE is the most productive national meeting for retailers held in our industry. Perhaps that’s why those who do attend annually are among the most successful marine dealers — a literal Who’s Who in retailing. I urge every dealer to plan to attend this year’s MDCE slated for Nov. 17-20 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando. To register, check out the website.

Or, if you’re not sure, take a few minutes to watch speaker videos here.

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