Early winter shows are setting a solid pace


Oil industry woes, losing a key Saturday date and an arctic blast packing sub-zero wind chills couldn’t stop boat shows in Houston, Cleveland, Chicago and Atlanta from delivering for their exhibitors.

The traditional 10-day Houston Boat Show didn’t open on its first Saturday because of NFL playoff football in the adjacent stadium. Still, the show flourished with big crowds on the other days and strong sales were reported, boosting expectations that the industry’s winter show circuit can be a solid success.

“We are more than happy with the results,” said Ken Lovell, president of the Boating Trades Association of Metropolitan Houston. “Sales reports from dealers on the floor have been very good and that’s what we were most concerned about. Yes, we are closely watching all the developments in the oil industry here and so far our dealers are telling us they haven’t felt any negative impact. Frankly, we’re hopeful it will stay that way.”

Looking from the Gulf Coast to the Great Lakes, both Cleveland and Chicago defied radical weather changes to keep pace.

There was no negative impact overall for the Progressive Mid-America Boat Show in Cleveland as it opened in favorable winter weather and wrapped up in a howling deep freeze. It was a similar story in Chicago.

“We were on a real attendance roll early but the sudden weather change really hammered attendance on the last day of the show,” Lake Erie Marine Trades Association president Ken Alvey said. “Luckily, we had banked good attendance on all the earlier days, so we still ended up 7 percent, making it our best show in eight years.”

Though Chicago was still open for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday while this was being written, National Marine Manufacturers Association executive vice president Ben Wold reports dealers are saying sales activity is very good there. A similar story comes out of the NMMA’s Atlanta Boat Show that closed Sunday with attendance there climbing 4 percent and similarly good sales reports were heard.

Like Houston, sales in Cleveland were also being closely monitored and the results were good. “We’re very happy,” said John Clemons of Clemons Boats. “The big-boat buyers seem to be here. For example, we’ve sold two Boston Whaler 320 Vantage models and our overall sales dollars are up nicely.”

Pier 53 Marine’s Scott Taylor noted: “Crowds are outstanding and I can’t remember when we’ve had this kind of interest. Our list of follow-ups is large — it’s been a great show.”

Tom Ervin at Skipper Bud’s in Port Clinton commented: “I think it’s the largest crowd I’ve seen here in 10 years — almost too many to handle. We’ve had to manage long lines to our big Tiaras and Cruisers and we already have a good number of solid appointments and trade appraisals.”

So weather-related problems in Northern market shows notwithstanding, boat shows across the country are delivering large and serious audiences to their exhibiting dealers.