The traditional round of fall boat shows kicks off today with the opening of the 30th annual Michigan City In-Water Boat Show just outside Chicago. Its no surprise the show is smaller than last year, but there appears to be no shortage of enthusiasm. While Show Manager Ken Alvey isnt making any predictions of what the attendance or sales might be, the fact that the dealers expect to be face-to-face with thousands of prospects for four days has them obviously positive.
Weve actually seen good activity in the last couple of weeks, said Bob Gross of Pine Crest Marina, LaPorte, Ind. and that includes several sales. So, we think this show could surprise us.
If theres such a thing as a fall in-water show circuit, Michigan City is the first and will be followed by such shows as Cedar Point, Norwalk, Annapolis, Ft. Lauderdale and wind up at St. Petersburg in early December. Some shows, among them Racine, Norfolk, Boston and Toronto that would have been on the circuit, have been cancelled for this round. But for those shows slated to carry on, there are some positive signals.
For example, last week the Index of Leading Economic Indicators (LEI) for July was released by the Conference Board. Year-to-year, the Index was up by 0.2 percent, the first reading in the plus column since 2007! But thats not the whole story. The LEI has actually been improving since April, steadily rising from a negative -3.0 percent in April to -1.8 percent in May to -1.1 percent in June to the positive reading in July. Interestingly, the LEI has been recognized as the most successful predictor of recessions having correctly forecast every one since 1960.
After improving three months in a row and finally moving above the zero line into positive territory in July, the LEI appears to be sending out positive signals that this severe recession is winding down. Moreover, although it doesnt necessarily indicate a strong recovery is ahead, such a positive turn, when combined with the pent up demand for our marine products, could trigger some unexpected sales results along the fall show circuit. After all, todays boat buyers will be well aware that the boats on display will be predominantly 2009s and back, and may well represent the final chance to get a true bargain. When theyre gone, theyre gone, so to speak!
One thing seems certain. Dealers in markets where there are major fall shows still slated to go should be exhibiting. If there is an improvement in the sales picture, it will manifest itself at the fall shows. A dealer who isnt there could miss out. As the great Wayne Gretzky is credited with saying: You miss every shot you never take!
Heres todays How I Discovered Boating video: