MBIA’s Novi show industry’s big test today

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In what may be a telling sign of what’s ahead for boat sales this spring, all eyes will be on the Michigan Boating Industry Association’s Progressive Novi Boat Show that opens today in the face of escalating concerns about Covid-19.

The Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi, Mich., is filled with hundreds of boats, accessory displays and entertainment, and this show normally draws thousands from Metro Detroit and the eastern Michigan region.

“We’re as optimistic as ever,” MBIA executive director Nicki Polan said this morning. “In spite of the announcement by Governor Whitmer earlier this week that Michigan now has two confirmed cases, no exhibitors have dropped out of the show and I have no reports of any who will be cutting staff.”

Polan went on to say that a golf show in Novi had a good showing last weekend, so the MBIA members are believing they, too, will do well, even recognizing that concerts have been canceled, universities are going to online instruction, and who knows what else is being affected.

The MBIA show is an important measure of what’s ahead at the retail level because Michigan is the third largest marine market in the nation. Nearly half of Michigan’s residents take to the water for boating and fishing each year. There are nearly one million boats registered in the state and retail expenditures for new boat, motor, trailer and accessory sales exceeded $1 billion in 2018, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

Bolstering confidence that Novi will go well is the fact that two of NMMA’s east coast boat and sport shows just finished with reports of increased attendance. The Atlantic City Boat Show saw an attendance of 41,736, up 6 percent from last year. Meanwhile, the World Fishing and Outdoor Exposition in Suffern, NY, also hung in with better attendance, up 2 percent to 16,473 over 2019.

“We have confirmed with the Suburban Collection Showplace management that they are complying 100 percent with every local, state and federal requirement to keep this facility clean,” said Polan. “Moreover, we know some dealers have hired cleaning staff to bolster this effort within their own exhibits.”

The Novi show runs through Sunday. It features activities and giveaways including, for a second year, “The Harborside Market” that boasts high-end shopping for lake enthusiasts with daily giveaways like chic tote bags, wine totes, pet water bottles, sunglass straps and more.

There’s also a Kids Zone on Saturday and Sunday featuring a live mermaid princess, interactive sand crafting, costumed pirates, captains, sailors, as well as boating and fishing simulators, among other activities.

If you know Polan as I do (for many years), she is always upbeat, the epitome of positivity. So, it was no surprise that she’d relay to me something she heard a doctor say in a recent interview. “The doctor said: ‘The safest place to recreate in a situation like this is outdoors, in the sun (which kills bacteria and viruses).’ That sure sounds like boating to me,” said Polan. 

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