St. Pete show is a big draw

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Promoter says healthy jump in turnout suggests consumers ‘are tired of depriving themselves’


Attendance at the 34th annual St. Petersburg Power & Sailboat Show increased by about 18 percent, the number of exhibitors rose by 7 percent and revenue jumped 8 percent.

“I think people are tired of depriving themselves,” says Efrem “Skip” Zimbalist III, chairman and chief executive of Active Interest Media, the parent company of Show Management (and Soundings Trade Only), which produces the show. “They want a new boat, and they’ve been holding off. People who have the wherewithal are beginning to make commitments to buy. We’re still not back to the good old days, but I think things are slowly improving.”

“I think it was a great show in terms of attendance,” adds Ricardo Strul, Show Management’s chief financial officer. “On Saturday we were really beating the numbers by double digits.”

The show was held Dec. 1-4 at the Progress Energy Center for the Arts, Mahaffey Theater Yacht Basin and Albert Whitted Park in St. Petersburg, and it consisted of boats in the water and on the hard. Show-goers were able to navigate the event with Show Management’s free MyBoatShow app for the iPhone/iPad and Android platforms.

The show got off to a healthy start on its first day with a 25 percent increase in new boats, Zimbalist says.

“It’s a real pleasant surprise, and we’re selling some boats,” Zimbalist said on the third day of the show. “We have some really amazing boats — both on the powerboat side and sailboat side, including a 45-foot Beneteau, which was introduced here to the west coast of Florida. On the power side we have a 50-foot Maritimo from Galati Yachts and a 60-foot Sea Ray that MarineMax brought.”

Although most of the exhibitors were Florida-based companies, other states also were represented, including Alabama, Texas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, Ohio, Indiana and New York, Zimbalist says.

For Silver Bay, N.Y.-based Hacker-Craft, builder of throwback mahogany runabouts, St. Petersburg was an opportunity to grow new markets, says Erin M. Badcock, Hacker Boat Co.’s director of operations. “We’re finding some people who haven’t seen these boats and some who actually didn’t know they were still being built,” says Badcock, whose company, Erin Investments, took full ownership of the company in June. “There aren’t a lot of ‘Hackers’ in Florida, but we hope to change that.”


Hacker Boat Co. had two vessels on display — its Neiman Marcus limited-edition 27-footer, built for the Neiman Marcus Christmas Book, and a 30-foot triple-cockpit runabout “with the same lines as the Hacker-Craft boats of the ’20s and ’30s,” she says.

Brandon Coward brought his company’s 24-foot power cat — the Splendor 240 SunStar — from Indiana. “Tampa Bay and St. Pete is a really good marketplace for us,” says Coward, a sales representative for Splendor Boats in Silver Lake. “Florida is 85 to 90 percent of our market, and we’ve had a good history at this show.”

Of course, the show featured plenty of boats from Florida builders, including custom fishing/day cruising boats by Bonadeo Boatworks of Stuart, Fla. The company’s 368 Walk-Around attracted schools of show-goers. On Saturday, the boat was packed from bow to stern.

“In this size range and type of boat, there are not a lot of options for custom boats,” says Tony Bonadeo, the company’s vice president of operations.

This is the 7-year-old company’s seventh boat — a high-end open vessel with a berth and head below the console. She’s powered with triple Mercury Verado 300-hp outboards and has a price of about $500,000.

“There are a lot of open boats out there that are specifically for fishing or family boating. We tried to grab a bit of everything with this boat,” Bonadeo says. “We kept the walkaround style, with plenty of room for fishing; we put some amenities in it, with a queen-size berth below and air conditioning and a flat-screen TV. It’s for the guy who wants to fish hard that can still use his boat with his family.”


The number of new powerboats at the show that were between 20 and 50 feet was up by about 20 percent, according to Strul.

“The source of growth is primarily new boats — powerboats,” he says. “It’s a mix of existing dealers bringing more boats to the show and some dealers getting some lines back or adding new lines.”

A Hatteras 68 convertible that the Tom George Yacht Group of Dunedin, Fla., offered was the largest boat at the show. This was the fourth year that sailboats have been part of the St. Petersburg show. More than 25 sailboats from 33 to 50 feet were shown, Strul says.

In addition to the boats and accessories, the show featured more than 60 seminars. Topics included marine refrigeration, anchoring, life raft survival, women and cruising and yoga for cruisers. Free fishing clinics for children were held on Saturday and Sunday.

The seminars appeared to be a big hit. On Saturday afternoon, all three seminar tents were at full capacity.

“One of the unique things about this show is the large educational component,” Zimbalist says. “People can learn an awful lot about maintaining and caring for their boat and navigating.”

This article originally appeared in the January 2012 issue.


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