Skip to main content

Show attendance and sales are on a roll

On the heels of Monday’s report confirming that boat sales hit double-digit gains in December for the second consecutive month based on early reports from 26 states, it’s no surprise that the key early boat shows around the country are off to a good start.

Six key association-produced shows — Houston, Nashville, Chicago, Cleveland, Atlanta and Port Charlotte — have now ended and all have good reports.

Houston, the first industry show this year, set the pace with an attendance increase of 14 percent. Sales were reportedly much stronger than a year ago, according to Boating Trades Association of Metropolitan Houston president Ken Lovell.

Meanwhile, three NMMA-produced shows also reported good signs. According to NMMA president Thom Dammrich: “Our space sales are up 12 percent across all our shows compared to last year because dealers are much more confident this year. And the reports we’re now getting confirm the buyers are out in force.”

In Chicago, the NMMA combined the Chicago Boat, Sport and RV Show with Strictly Sail Chicago to introduce the new Progressive Chicago Boat, RV & Strictly Sail Show. It proved to be a great move. Attendance at the new show was up 8 percent over the combined attendance of the two separate shows last year. “This show is fast becoming one of the strongest shows in the northern markets,” Dammrich said, “and the dealers really stepped up their presentation of product this year. The show was beautiful.”

Beautiful also describes Georgia’s biggest show, the NMMA Progressive Atlanta Boat Show. “The dealers in Atlanta do the absolute best job displaying their product of any show I have seen in the US outside of Miami or Ft. Lauderdale,” Dammrich said. Atlanta’s attendance ended essentially even with last year’s healthy 15 percent increase.

The Progressive Mid-America Boat Show in Cleveland delivered similar good results, according to Lake Erie Marine Trades Association president Ken Alvey said. “The show was 20 percent larger because our dealers are much more aggressive this year. Most days saw bigger attendance, we are up 5 percent overall and sales are definitely up. The crowds we as big as we could handle over the weekend.”

“We had a great show, too,” said John Good from the Southwest Florida Marine Industries Association’s Charlotte Boat Show. “Perfect weather pushed our attendance up nearly 20 percent and virtually every dealer is saying the same thing — a lot more sales than a year ago. We’re very happy.”

Finally, attendance at the sold-out Progressive Nashville Boat & Sportshow dropped 16 percent. But that’s very misleading. Last year, Nashville’s attendance skyrocketed an unprecedented 47 percent, undoubtedly helped by a move to the new Music City Center. With attendees who just came to see the new center now out of the picture, Nashville still kept the overwhelming majority of its attendance gain coming back. “Nashville is really a solid success story for us,” Dammrich said.

Bottom line: When we sample early shows from Texas to Florida to Illinois, it’s clear our expectations that our boat shows will see improved attendance and better sales are firmly grounded. That should encourage all dealers to take advantage of their local boat shows.


Retail in Times of Consolidation

Our monthly Pulse Report survey asks dealers if mergers and acquisitions have affected any of the brands they carry. Take the survey here.

Rollick Expands Leadership Team

The marketing and technology company named a chief financial officer and head of dealer solutions.

Vision Marine Moves Toward Mass Production

The company partnered with McLaren Engineering to manufacture its E-Motion 180E electric outboard and powertrain system.

Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show Opens Today

The show runs through Oct. 31, and organizers are hoping for a return to pre-Covid success.

Non-profit Takes Aim at Access

Families for Boating works with community advocacy groups to help curb regulatory threats to on-water activities.

Garmin Reports 25 Percent Q3 Growth for Marine

The electronics manufacturer says demand for plotters was the primary driver.

Polaris Reports Flat Q3

Though boat sales were up 18 percent, demand in the company’s other segments was hindered by a lack of product availability, driven by supply-chain issues.

Raymarine Unveils New Radar

The company said it is “disrupting the radar category” with Cyclone, which it will unveil at FLIBS this week.