MTA New Jersey’s Boat Sale & Expo Hits a Home Run

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Last weekend’s Jersey Shore Boat Sale & Expo hit it over the fence, when crowds of visitors showed up at FirstEnergy Park in Lakewood, N.J., the home of the Philadelphia Phillies’ Class A baseball affiliate Lakewood BlueClaws.

Now in its 12th year and produced by the Marine Trades Association of New Jersey, the successful show demonstrated that people remain hungry for boats and boating.

“It was a really great show overall, and we had perfect weather, which helped,” said MTA/NJ executive director Melissa Danko. “But it was not an easy lift by any means — lots to manage and control the entire time, from installation to tear-down. Still it was worth all the effort for our dealers. The crowds showed up, and our attendance was up all three days. … And our team is proud of what we accomplished.”

The show was staged entirely outside the ballpark, with nearly unlimited space to spread out exhibits. Given the state of gatherings with regard to the pandemic, the added responsibilities were extensive, including counting every person in and out of the show to maintain safe capacity, lots of new directional signage, and hand sanitizer stations everywhere, which was continually used.

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“We also implemented a number of new contactless options,” Danko said. “These included online sales, which were reported up significantly, an online guide, online raffle entry and an ‘I Spy’ kids scavenger hunt organized by New Jersey Sea Grant with a take-home craft that proved very popular and easy to do.

“Most exciting, the crowds showed up,” she added, “and they were really great. People mostly respected our new safety policies and masks, and they were also very happy and to be out doing something. I can’t tell you how many times we were thanked for having the show.”

The same was true for the dealers. While some faced inventory shortages, the show boasted more than 200 new boats, and dealers indicated sales were good. Several reported people buying boats without prior contact with the dealer. There was also a separate area dedicated to preowned boats.

“It’s also important to recognize we had full support of the facility, which helped to make the show happen,” Danko said. “They had been having events over the summer, so that helped in providing some guidance in managing the event with the virus. We communicated our safety plans with the facility and all of our exhibitors, and we asked exhibitors to sign off on the guidelines, as well.”

Danko said the show’s success is evidence these events will continue to be a cost-effective way to reach large numbers of prospects in a short time. With proper restrictions and guidelines, not to mention some extra work, boat shows can be staged safely.

“This one took a lot of more work and some measure of stress, but in the end it was certainly worth it,” Danko said. “We saw so much interest and excitement about boating out there — more than I have seen during my time in the industry — and our show most definitely helped keep that excitement going.

“It boosted confidence for everyone involved,” she added.

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