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The Value of Boat Shows

As the fall boat show season looms, the Orlando Boat Show wrapped up a strong run Sunday in Florida, providing further evidence that buyers are still plentiful, shows still draw them in, and dealers are making sales.

“Attendance at this event indicates that the public still has a great interest in boating and the boating lifestyle. Our sales exceeded our expectations,” said Joe Lewis, general manager of Mount Dora Boating Center & Marina.

Twenty-two of central Florida’s top dealers, representing more than 80 builders, filled the show with nearly 400 boats, from pontoons to offshore center consoles. The show was held at the Orange County Convention Center and is produced by the Marine Industry Association of Central Florida.

“The Orlando Boat Show was very good for us, and customers expressed an excellent buying temperament,” Paul Berube, of Boaters Exchange, said.

“Daily show attendance continues to ebb and flow, given current economic concerns,” said David Ray, MIACF executive director. “Our attendance was up 27.4 percent over the last March edition. Moreover, dealers reported plenty of serious boaters were in the crowds, and buyers were particularly taking advantage of new offerings.

“Maybe it was the squirrels,” added Ray, referring the premiere of an all-new Twiggy the Water-Skiing Squirrel show. (To paraphrase Cyndi Lauper, I guess squirrels just wanna have fun, too.)

The Orlando show may have reflected general reports cited by The Wall Street Journal that “consumers are continuing to put their money toward experiences outside of the homes where they spent the early years of the pandemic. A range of businesses that cater to leisure time reported strong results last week. Theme parks said sales per visitor hit historic highs, and casinos reported rising slot-machine gambling in Las Vegas.”

More positive news comes from the University of Michigan, which reports that its consumer-sentiment index, which surveys consumer attitudes on the state of the economy, rose to 55.1 in August from 51.5 in July. Consumer sentiment has increased since declining to 50 in June, the lowest reading on record for this index.

Meanwhile, the passage by Congress of the Inflation Reduction Act contains less-publicized provisions that include spending for fossil-fuel production, as well as opening new oil and gas drilling leases. So while gas prices will likely be somewhat volatile for a period, boat sales should benefit from the expectation of generally lower costs at the fuel dock.

The fall show schedule reflects the belief that reaching customers and prospects face-to-face remains the best way to close sales.

Shows getting ready for runs in September include:

• Progressive Insurance Metro Boat Show, Sept. 15-18, Detroit

• Newport (R.I.) International Boat Show, Sept. 15-18

• Daytona (Fla.) Boat Show, Sept. 16-18

• Progressive Insurance Norwalk (Conn.) Boat Show, Sept. 22-25

• Jersey Shore Boat Sale & Expo, Sept. 23-25, Lakewood

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