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Fall Shows Will Keep Dealers on the Offense

It’s time for dealers to be on the offense or be eaten for lunch by the competition!

Despite the Delta variant looming over both the economy and the new school year, we’re approaching the industry’s traditional fall showtime, and the normal show lineup of major events across the country from New Jersey to Washington is set to go.

Let’s face it, with current supply-chain and inventory issues dogging our industry, many dealers are head-scratching over space size, products for display, and even whether to spend on show participation at all. It’s not complicated, however — to stay on top of the game, the needed action is obvious.

It’s not a question of money. Overall, businesses generally have healthy cash and/or plenty of unused credit. Indeed, according to recent reports in the Wall Street Journal, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Bank of America, the nation’s two biggest banks, say businesses had a combined record $1 trillion in unused credit at the end of June, up 20 percent over a year ago.

It’s a real plus that nearly all the industry’s fall shows are outdoor events. However, this year’s schedule will kick-off with the big indoor Orlando Boat Show, Aug. 27-29, in the Orlando Convention Center.

Facing inventory limits, most dealers are still reserving their normal space. Show manager David Ray (and executive director of the Marine Industry Association of Central Florida) said they are adding new show features to increase the show’s draw.

These include a first-ever “fishing zone” loaded with all types of fresh- and saltwater equipment, clothing, accessories and speakers, expanded water sports and boating seminars, and more kid’s activities.

Continuing the schedule into September, the Orlando show will be followed by the Tampa Boat Show on Sept. 10-12. The largest show on Florida’s west coast, it’s also staged indoors in the waterfront Tampa Convention Center but also features a large adjacent in-water section. The show annually boasts power and sailboats up to 70 feet and dozens of accessory exhibits both indoors and along the waterfront promenade.

Because the Tampa Bay area is a noted sportfishing mecca, special emphasis is placed on daily fishing seminars boasting recognized local angling celebrities and captains.

Meanwhile, across the country in the Pacific Northwest, it will be the return of the Seattle Boats Afloat Show at South Lake Union. Following a Covid postponement last year, the Northwest Yacht Brokers-produced event is set to feature a wide variety of power and sailboats plus exhibits of accessories, insurance and financing. Boats Afloat will be held at Chandler’s Cove from Sept. 16-19.

On the East Coast, the show that was the industry’s first fall show held successfully in spite of Covid will go again, Sept. 24-26. Produced by the Marine Trades Association of New Jersey, the Jersey Shore Boat Sale & Expo will take over First Energy Park, home of baseball’s minor league Jersey Shore BlueClaws. Despite low inventories, the show is expected to still include hundreds of boats and encircle the front of the ballpark as usual.

Fall shows on the Great Lakes are also back with two September events returning after being Covid-scuttled last year. First, the Progressive North Coast Harbor Boat Show will take over the Rock n Dock Marina adjacent to Cleveland’s iconic Rock & Roll Hall of Fame on Sept. 10-12. This year’s show will include a wide variety of exhibits and activities such as daily Discover Sailing rides, paddleboard demonstrations, educational presentations and live entertainment. The event is produced by the Lake Erie Marine Trades Association.

Finally, in the Detroit area the Progressive Metro Boat Show is slated to return Sept 16-19 when it traditionally takes over the Lake St. Clair Metropark with land and in-water displays. The show will be loaded with family activities such as a big “Kids Zone” with radio-controlled boats, crafts and bounce houses; a unique “Paint A Paddle Station” where visitors create their own nautical décor; and a Hops & Props live musical entertainment area, and more.

As one dealer so aptly put it when I asked him if he planned to exhibit in an upcoming show: “I know my competitors are circling so we need to stay out front and visible. We’ll definitely be there with whatever we’ve got.” 

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