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No shortage of enthusiasm at slower MAATS

Even with fewer exhibits and lower attendance, new products were rolled out to eager buyers

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While boat and engine manufacturers are posting lackluster sales, accessories makers say they, for the most part, are not suffering from the weak economy.

That was the message many wanted to get across at this year’s Marine Aftermarket Accessories Trade Show, held July 16-18 at the Las Vegas Convention Center in conjunction with the International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades (ICAST).

“(Consumers) still want to use their boats, and they’ll still go and spend $300, $400, $600 buying a new chart plotter,” said Peter Marshall, chairman and founder of New Zealand-based Tallon Marine, which recently entered the U.S. market and exhibited at MAATS for the first time this year.

The company unveiled its new integrated accessory system at the show.

Marshall also praised the format of MAATS, with mornings dedicated to buyer-supplier meetings and new product previews, and afternoons on the exhibit floor.

“I love the format. We’re going to get some spectacular results,” he said.

Ian Parkhill, president of Ontario, Canada-based Wera Tools, also attended his first MAATS this year and echoed Marshall’s sentiments. Parkhill had six buyer-supplier meetings set up prior to the event and, once at MAATS, met with key decision makers.

“We’ve got something that’s really new for the market,” Parkhill said of the company’s stainless steel tools. “There’s always a spot for quality, even when the market is a little bit sluggish.”

Tallon Marine and Wera Tools were two of 293 companies to exhibit at MAATS. That was down from 319 exhibits in 2007 and 365 in 2006.

However, there were 83 new exhibitors this year, said Kathleen Clickett, manager of trade events for the National Marine Manufacturers Association, which owns and produces the show.

“From our perspective, we’re extremely happy that it still was a positive show in light of everything,” Clickett said.

This year, the MAATS show floor and ICAST show floor were open together, and attendees could go back and forth between the shows. Also this year, there was a push to bring dealers to MAATS, Clickett said, and about 100 dealers came to the event.

However, attendance was down this year by about 7 percent. There were 1,833 verified attendees, down from 1,950 in 2007 and 2,426 in 2006.

“We were down a little bit, but we weren’t surprised by that,” Clickett said.

Some exhibitors, including Ocean Equipment of Irvine, Calif., and Dometic Environmental Corp. of Pompano Beach, Fla., said they noticed the show floor seemed slower than in the past, but were generally pleased with the quality of attendees.

“The traffic’s been kind of off, I can’t say it’s been a busy show,” noted Rob Walsh, president of Ocean Equipment, an Irvine, Calif.-based manufacturer and distributor of hardware and fasteners, electronics and other marine accessories.

However, he added, he was seeing qualified attendees and called MAATS “a good venue” for introducing new products.

Others, such as Bill Boudreau from Chicago-based Cobra Electronics Corp., said, “The show seems to be just as busy as last year. It’s been really good for us.”

Gloversville, N.Y.-based Taylor Made Products introduced 14 products, ranging from a new oil-free D-Icer to new trailerable T-Top boat covers. David Karpinski, vice president of sales and marketing, said the company is “holding its own” thanks to its wide variety of products.

“The aftermarket has typically been where the consumer has gone to feel new,” he said, adding the company’s international business is expected to double this year because of the weak U.S. dollar.

In addition to the buyer-supplier meetings and exhibit hall, MAATS featured a new Resource Area and a scaled-down version of the NMMA’s Accessories Center.

The Resource Area provided free guidance to attendees who specialized in public relations, Web site design and shipping and merchandising. The Accessories Center provides manufacturers with a showcase to exhibit and promote products. It will be showcased at three boat shows this year, including those in Chicago, Baltimore and the Northwest Sportshow.

MAATS also included opening and closing receptions, and a silent auction that raised $6,750 for the Grow Boating Initiative.

MAATS 2009
Next year’s event will be the first held outside of Las Vegas, with plans to co-locate with ICAST at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla. The show is set for July 15-17, 2009, and will once again be preceded by the National Marine Distributors Association’s annual Sales, Training, Education & Purchasing conference.

Clickett said the MAATS committee has not yet decided if the show will move back to Las Vegas with ICAST in 2010 or stay in Orlando. That decision was expected shortly, she said.

At next year’s show, booths will be 10x10, rather than 10x8, as they have been since MAATS’s inception.

Clickett said 60 companies re-signed for next year at this year’s MAATS, with more renewals coming in on a regular basis.

Also for next year, MAATS plans to roll out a marketing plan specifically designed to attract dealers, Clickett said.

For information on MAATS 2009, contact Kathleen Clickett at (312) 946-6252 or kclickett@nmma.org.

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