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Ohio event confirms relevance of boat shows

“There were gray skies, cool temperatures, brisk northeast winds off a cold Lake Erie and some unwelcomed showers, but the boat show was very upbeat, well attended and brought in ready buyers,” says Tom Mack of South Shore Marine in Huron.

Mack was referring to last weekend’s Catawba Island Boat Show, held in-water at the prestigious Catawba Island Club in Port Clinton. Although favorable spring weather didn’t show up, the boaters did, and they boarded more than 100 power and sailboats to 60-plus feet, reinforcing the truth that boat shows remain very relevant in attracting a large audience in a local market.

“We’re very pleased with the turnout and sales reports,” noted Bryan Ralston, director of marketing for the Lake Erie Marine Trades Association. “The dealers also reported they’d seen a definite sense of urgency by attendees to buy now and get out on the water. That’s the result we all wanted from this show.”

Ralston also explained that staging the Catawba show is the result of dealers wanting a platform to display new models they’ve received since the big Cleveland show in January and/or show off bigger boats they couldn’t haul to the winter event. “We also see that because it’s held at the actual opening of our Ohio boating season, there is a strong motivation to buy now,” he added.

“We picked up some exceptionally good leads, the best I can remember from this show,” said Jason Clemons of Clemons Boats in Sandusky. “We've closed several boats, ranging from a 25 Boston Whaler Outrage down to a 13 Boston Whaler Super Sport, and I'm told we’re certain to close a 315 Whaler Conquest, among others, this week. In spite of the weather I was impressed by the crowds. We see the boating market is hot — our sales for the year are really strong."

A strong market was also evident to Formula Boats’ Pete Braun and his dealer, Marine Tech Concepts, Marblehead. “We were surprised at how far people traveled to be at the Catawba show,” said Braun. “We had people from Detroit and all over northeast Ohio — very serious prospects. This speaks to the steady increase in boating interest in recent years, and we expect that to continue this year. My outlook is good going forward.”

So is the outlook of Ted Patrick at Lake & Bay Yacht Sales, Marblehead. He summed the show up this way: "Quality buyers and prospects always attend this show. Even a bit of cold couldn't keep them away. I've been to every Catawba show. It’s in a beautiful facility — first-class — something we now look forward to every spring,” said Patrick.

Given today’s overwhelming proclivity for digital marketing, social media and the like, there are often conversations about whether boat shows are still relevant for dealers’ success. The simple answer is yes. Buyers and prospects are still drawn to shows in large numbers dealers could never generate in their showrooms. And, as the success of the Catawba Island show confirms, crowds will defy cold winds and inclement weather to get there.

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