Skip to main content

Guarded optimism at Providence Boat Show

Sense among dealers was that the days of ‘pinching pennies’ are over for potential boat buyers

30_optimism_01

Exhibitors at the Providence Boat Show at the Rhode Island Convention Center in January spoke with guarded optimism about the show and the coming year.

Attendance was up 3 percent at the Jan. 12-15 event, according to show spokeswoman Carol Dietz, and the mood among visitors was much brighter than it has been in recent years. “We heard very positive feedback,” Dietz says. “It seems like a number of people have been holding back and are starting to seriously think about pulling the trigger.”

The difference that dealers note again and again is the way potential customers approached them. “It was definitely better than last year, both in attendance and sales,” says Rudy Mutter, vice president of Twin City Marine, a Four Winns dealership in Central Falls, R.I. “We were taking orders right up to 5 p.m. on Sunday, the last day of the show, but every day showed a positive attitude from buyers and real interest in getting back into the market.”

Jack Barber, in the parts and sales departments at Ocean House Marina, a Regulator, Godfrey, Scout and Maritime Marine dealer in Charleston, R.I., says he was getting a sense of optimism from visitors. “Something’s going to turn. I think people are tired of pinching pennies,” he says.

Like other vendors at the show, Barber says consumers were coming to him with questions and requests about what they want in a boat, an encouraging change from recent years.

Although dealers look to any sign of an improved market with excitement, many acknowledge that the sales world they remember is not returning anytime soon. “I don’t think it will be like years past, but the people we’re seeing seem like serious buyers,” says Ross Lemieux, a co-owner of family-run Inland Marine, a Sea Hunt, Tahoe and G3 dealer in Chepachet, R.I. “Service is the key these days.”

He notes a father and son in their 70s and 40s who stopped by his display three times on opening night before the son committed to a Sea Hunt 20. The son mentioned that the center console is a move up from a smaller boat. “He put a deposit down at the show, then followed through the next week and finished the deal,” says Lemieux, who estimates at least seven deals from the show.

“We got some very strong prospects on the Harbor 20 sailboat,” says Jim Torinese, a broker at Eastern Yacht Sales, which has several locations in New England. “I also got some very good brokerage prospects as well, even one for a 2008 Mainship 40 trawler for $300,000, which is a new leftover boat.” The potential buyer had recently sold his home and wanted to try the liveaboard life with his wife aboard a “newer boat,” Torinese says.

31_optimism_02

He was hoping to pick up a few deposits, pending financing for the buyers. “Overall, I would say the show was better than last year, with more serious buyers,” he says.

Matt Leduc, of Fleet Yacht Sales, the southeastern New England Hunter sailboat dealer and brokerage house, says the dealership had more traffic than last year, both for sailboats as well as power.

With the National Football League playoffs in high gear and the hometown New England Patriots playing on the final day of the show, Leduc paid to have a cable run to his display and showed the games, which he says drew a big crowd. “We had all of the football games on that weekend and had a great vendor party during the first half of the Pats game. Our booth was packed,” he says. “It was a great way to meet some vendors that don’t know me or Fleet Yacht Sales. We will definitely do that again next year.”

Another positive sign organizers note was rising exhibitor enthusiasm. “The number of boats being shown, both in sail and power, increased slightly over 2011, and all available booths for equipment and accessories were filled,” says Tom Delotto, director of the Newport Exhibition Group, which organizes the show. “The Marine Bargain Basement on the street level of the convention center added to the total amount of space in the show, and there was a lot of positive feedback among attendees and exhibitors alike.”

Before the show opened, the Rhode Island Marine Trades Association held a roundtable discussion. The topic was the recently formed U.S. Senate Oceans Caucus and its potential effect on the industry and the Ocean State. The speakers were U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.; Jim Currie, legislative director of the National Marine Manufacturers Association; Susan Swanton, executive director of the Maine Marine Trades Association; and Dan Pingaro, chief executive of Sailors for the Sea, a non-profit organization focused on protecting the world’s oceans.

Formed last September by Whitehouse and U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, the bipartisan caucus aims to increase awareness and find common ground in responding to problems facing our oceans and coastlines. “We are a maritime state, the Ocean State,” Whitehouse says, noting that ocean health is important to representatives of all coastal states, from which the caucus has recruited members. “And this caucus is providing a vehicle for those of us in the Senate who care about oceans and maritime issues to get things done.”

Whitehouse urged members of the industry to contact him at scheduling@whitehouse.senate.gov with their ideas and priorities.

Currie spoke of the challenges he faces as chief lobbyist for the industry during a federal election year with a partisan stalemate in Congress. “We have 12 million boaters who generate $14 billion in revenue and support 363,000 jobs,” Currie says. “When the White House is making policy, it’s critical we keep their feet to the fire and make sure they understand that recreational boating and all things that go into it are a powerful driver of our economy.”

This article originally appeared in the March 2012 issue.

Related

MARINE-PRODUCTS

Marine Products Reports Record Q4

The builder of Chaparral and Robalo boats reported net sales were up 42% for the quarter and 28% for fiscal year 2022.

1_SHURHOLD

Shurhold Appoints COO

Forrest Ferrari has years of management, business development, IT and quality-assurance experience.

MOBILE-CATCH-CENTER

RBFF, Pure Fishing Partner for a First Catch Center

Pure Fishing will equip a mobile trailer with tackle and gear to bring fishing experiences to areas of South Carolina where participation is low.

Norm

An Oft-Overlooked Sales Opportunity

A recent report from the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation showed that women comprise 37% of all anglers. If you haven’t tapped this segment, you’re missing out.

1. 2023 new boat retail outlook

Too Many High-Priced Boats

To wrap up 2022, marine retailers reported lower demand, expressed more negative sentiment and voiced concerns about rising inventory. Boat prices and the economy remained top of mind for dealers in December.

Soundings Nov 2022

New-Boat Registrations Continue to Slide

As the gaudy sales figures from the pandemic continue to return to more realistic numbers, the main segments of the recreational boating industry saw new-model registrations of 4,421 in November, a 30.3% drop from 6,340 during the same time in 2021. .

1_thumbnail_Darren Vaux Headshet 2022

ICOMIA President Darren Vaux sees common pressures facing worldwide boating industry

Founded in 1966, the International Council of Marine Industry Associations is a global organization composed of national boating federations and other bodies involved in the recreational marine industry. ICOMIA works on such issues as breaking down trade barriers, improving boating safety and promoting recreational boating worldwide.

1_AdobeStock_175388620

Clearing the Waterways

In Florida, in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, it was estimated that there were 6,000 derelict boats in southwest part of the state. In most cases, boat owners don’t know resources are available to remove them because until recently there weren’t many.

1_AdobeStock_40421038

A Window on the World

Inflation, supply-chain kinks and the continuing war in Ukraine continue to be serious concerns, but numerous companies with a global presence for exports are reporting optimism at the start of 2023.