Its likely to be fourth down and goal to go from inside the 10 yard line for some manufacturers and dealers when the Miami International Boat Show and Strictly Sail open today. For those in that unfortunate position, a lack of scoring with significant orders from this show may be handing them a loss in the big game.
Its hard to write this, but the facts are undeniable: Some builders and dealers will probably call it quits unless, that is, the Miami shows somehow delivers a big turnaround message for the industry. Can that happen? Nothings impossible.
Now dont get me wrong. Im not ignoring the fact that the loss of some manufacturers and dealers appears unavoidable. But the Miami show very well could deliver enough orders to keep many going as we head for our major spring selling season.
First, I base that opinion on the steady stream of good reports coming out of other shows around the country. It seems the early-January boat shows experienced the largest declines in attendance, albeit most still did better than anyone expected. The late-January and early-February shows, however, have been decidedly better, with attendance nearly as good as a year ago, and retail sales reportedly better than expected in many cases. I give you Strictly Sail Chicago, the Long Island Boat Show, Stuart In-Water Show, Charleston Boat Show and the first half of the L.A. Boat Show as just a few examples.
Second, unquestionably there is already a large pent-up demand for our boats. Logically, if that were not so, our boat shows would have seen huge attendance drops this winter. They didnt, and thats because the passion and desire for our products remains strong. If there is any one thing keeping that pent up demand in check, it is simply uncertainty. Psychologists tell us none of us feels good when were feeling uncertain. Fear of making a mistake in spending sets in, and we wont act. Its not that our circumstances have actually changed that much, but we just follow the herd and stop buying because we dont feel good!
But keep in mind that is not where everyone is. For example, just study the five-part series on boat buying that has run here in TradeOnlyToday for the past five days. There are many things to take away from those buyer stories. Among them, there are people who believe their future will be fine, they want their new boat now not later, and they see this point in time is a unique opportunity to buy extremely right! They clearly have moved out of the pent-up place, and I suggest many others will, too! (If you havent read these stories, I urge you to go back now: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V.)
Finally, I have already walked several sections of the Miami show, as well as the docks over at the huge Yacht & Brokerage Show. I can tell you both shows look big, full and exciting. The products on display are as good as I have ever seen here, and they will send a message that boating is still robust, despite the economy. Moreover, I expect many people will shake off any feelings of uncertainty and become convinced by the genuine deals were offering these days. So, score big Miami!