Take four days of Chamber of Commerce-type weather. Frame it with the city’s beautiful Harborside Center & Yacht Basin. Recognize it’s become one of the largest such events on Florida’s Gulf Coast and you have the Southwest Florida Marine Industry Association’s Fort Myers Boat Show.
“In every way it turned out to be a great show,” veteran producer John Good said. “Our attendance was up 15 percent overall, closing Sunday was amazing and, best of all, our early sales reports appear to be very strong in most segments.”
Tom Papesh of York Road Marine in St. James City (Bayliner, Heyday) backed up Good’s assessment. “We’ve been in this show for 17 years and this year was nothing short of fantastic,” he said. “Even Sunday night after closing we still had people in our exhibit. That’s never happened. What a weekend.”
Papesh attributed a lot of his success to his introduction of the Heyday wake-sports line. “We put one boat in-the-water that enabled us to show what the Heyday can do,” Papesh said. “The price point of $39,900 and the wakeboarding design really hit home with the young family demographic. It confirmed out decision to handle Heydays.
Similar strong comments came from Formula Boats’ Denny Pellici. “I’ve feel this show has steadily drawn attendance from a much wider geographical area which is important for us,” Pellicic said. “This year, the crowds have been good every day and Sunday was better than good because that day we equaled the sales of the previous three days.” Formula’s display boasted eight models, all displayed in-water.
One of the big draws Good includes in the show is the “Fishin’ Village.” Maybe it’s because he is an avid angler, but he also knows good fishing displays and an effective lineup of fishing seminars will put people through the gate. This year, “Fishin’ Village” featured a variety of tackle and equipment exhibits, a fishing simulator, a casting tank and a series of seminars on subjects from bass to billfish conducted by more than a dozen area captains.
“From what our exhibitors have shared with us so far,” Good said, “everyone seems really pleased with their results this year. The good news and bad news about that may be that our growth has us running out of exhibit space looking ahead.”
As we approach the end of the industry’s fall show circuit, the final major in-water show will run Dec. 1-4 in St. Petersburg. Since the circuit started on the Great Lakes in early August, through major shows on the East and West coasts, there have been no shows seriously impacted by bad weather this year and virtually all of them experienced gains in attendance and retail sales.
While some industry segments haven’t been as robust as others through the fall, it appears the boat shows have continued to do exactly what they’re designed to do — put dealers face-to-face with large numbers of qualified prospects. It’s logical then to assume the winter boat shows (they’ll start in less than two months) hold continued promise of good attendance and sales.