For selling, it sure beats a 10-by-10 booth - Trade Only Today

For selling, it sure beats a 10-by-10 booth

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About seven years ago, Jock West, a marine marketing consultant based in Portsmouth, R.I., hatched an idea to put a new twist on traditional boat show booths.

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He reasoned that if buyers could see products installed and working on a boat, the real-life presentation would serve as a much better showcase than a static display on a showroom floor.West, 64, went looking for the right boat, and he found it in Showtime, a 63-foot Trumpy that has gone through a major refit.

It may have taken seven years for West to turn his vision into reality, but it’s finally happening, as Showtime cruises to major boat shows this season to bring products, appliances, paint, electronics and other items from more than 30 sponsors before the boating public.

“It’s like being in a classic old boat, but with state-of-the-art everything,” West says, noting that the inception of the idea to use a boat to highlight products occurred when he “got sick of trying to figure out how to showcase paint in a 10-by-10 booth.

“No matter how much money you spend to make a cool experience for customers, when push comes to shove, you’re still showing them a can of paint,” he says, until you properly apply paint to a boat to show how great it looks.

Showtime, Trumpy hull No. 437, was launched in 1969 as Sinbad. A replacement for an earlier Trumpy of the same name, it was owned by one family, the Gordons, until it was donated in 2003 to the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton, N.Y., a major showcase for classic wooden boats in the Thousand Islands region of the upper St. Lawrence River.

Showtime was built for Fred Gordon, of Rochester, N.Y. West retained most of the original components in the boat when Gordon owned it, from the 671 Detroit Diesels to the bulkheads and Trumpy furnishings. Updating the Formica in the pilothouse with new mahogany to make it look more modern was the only significant change.

The 12- and 24-volt DC electrical system and the Northern Lights generator work as well as any found on a new boat, West says. “We have Techma heads that are the best you can use in a boat,” he says. “It’s the first time in my 40 years of being on boats that we actually have heads that are nicer than the ones at home.”

Showtime also has its own tender — a 21-foot, bright yellow catamaran with twin Mercury outboards is named Spotlight, which West thinks is fitting.

Buying Showtime
West says Showtime is the seventh vessel he looked at in his seven years of searching for the right boat. He and naval architect Roger Marshall drove to Clayton to see it before it went on the market. They sea-trialed it and, three weeks later, West bought it. Showtime had to stay in upstate New York for the winter because, by the time he finalized the deal, the canals had iced over.

He brought Showtime home to Newport, R.I., the week of Mother’s Day. Everything worked on the boat, he says, even the original toaster. He and his family took a Mother’s Day cruise before Showtime went to J&J Marine in Somerset, Mass., for a retrofit.

In 37 days, the work was done, including new wiring and electronics, new paint and refitted cushions. In all, more than 30 sponsors contributed to the project. The four partners in the effort are J&J Marine, L&L Electronics Inc., Yachting magazine and YachtRecord.com.

“It was just astounding that we met the deadline schedule,” West says. “With the support of the sponsors, and the new sponsor products, we have a boat that has $750,000 invested in it.”

Showtime’s debut was June 24 at The Yacht Report’s American Superyacht Forum in Newport. Over the course of five days, it was the venue for four dinner cruises and three cocktail parties. There were no glitches, West says. Also in June, Showtime participated in the WoodenBoat Show in Mystic, Conn. In an 18-hour period, 1,132 people toured the boat.

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“Most boats as old and as pretty as this one are owned by extremely wealthy people who won’t let you on them,” West says. “I wanted to show off Showtime.”

And West is doing just that. Showtime’s September appearances included the Newport International Boat Show and the Norwalk (Conn.) International In-Water Boat Show. In October, the boat will be at the U.S. Sailboat Show and the U.S. Powerboat Show in Annapolis, Md., and at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, which ends in early November. In February, Showtime will attend the Miami International Boat Show & Strictly Sail in Miami, and in March she will be at the Palm Beach (Fla.) Boat Show.

West also plans to show off the boat at Ocean Reef weekend in December and at Key West (Fla.) Race Week in January.

“I think all the sponsors would say [the venture] has paid off nicely already. It really works,” he says. “When you show somebody the varnish work in Showtime, they understand why the product is a little more expensive than the other guy’s.”

Eric Braitmayer, vice president of marketing for Imtra Marine Products, Imtra Corp., New Bedford, Mass., which supplied all the LED lighting and the boat’s windshield wipers, says his company is happy with its involvement in the project. Braitmayer says Showtime shows how you can take an older boat and upgrade it with new technology, and that it can be done effectively. The LED lighting and updated windshield wiper system are good examples.

“I think there are a lot of people with older boats that think making these sorts of conversions are too difficult, when the reality is you can do it,” says Braitmayer. “You can end up with a traditional-looking boat that takes advantage of current technology.”

Also, he says it’s difficult to display lights in a brightly lit convention hall. Using Showtime as a showcase enables consumers to see how the lights will look on their boats.

West says Showtime’s sponsors will have a chance to display their products at exclusive events on Showtime.

It was initially difficult for West to get sponsors, but once they saw it all come together, Showtime sold itself.
One of the sponsors, Panish Controls Inc., a throttle control and cable company in Bridgeport, Conn., got involved because the current owner’s grandfather did the original installation on the boat, and he wanted to do the upgrade.

The sponsor contracts run through 2010.

West says one of the best parts of this experience is the time he’s spending on the water. “I’ve been on the water more this year than I have in five years,” he says. “Anytime somebody shows an interest, we let them on the boat, and show it to them.

“This generation of children has never seen an old wooden boat, and the parents like it because they can see stuff that they’re thinking about buying for their own boat. The kids get to experience what a boat from the 1960s and 1970s was like,” West says.

This article originally appeared in the October 2008 issue.

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