Sunny breaks at Suncoast show


Exhibitors report they had two strong sales days sandwiched around a washout Saturday


The opening and closing days of the Suncoast Boat Show in Sarasota, Fla., saw healthy traffic on the docks, salespeople working on deals with clients and noisy, packed marine accessories tents.

Then there was the middle day of the April 20-22 show, which was held at Marina Jack’s. “That rain came in on Saturday late morning and washed us out completely. I mean, it was a storm,” says Greg Allen, regional sales manager for Everglades Boats. “So I was a little worried going into Sunday.”

Sunday’s weather cooperated and Allen says he laid the groundwork for sales of three of Everglades’ larger boats — 29-, 32- and 35-footers. “When I close those — and I think one of them may already be closed — I know I can say this [show] was pretty worthwhile for us,” he says. “If it had not been for that Saturday, it could have been even better.”

Overall attendance at the 30th annual Suncoast show was down 18 percent from the previous year because of the rain, but overall exhibitor revenue was up about 10 percent, according to Show Management, which produces the three-day event. Saturday attendance was down 50 percent, compared with the same day during the prior year’s show, according to Show Management.

Boats on display ranged from 10-foot dinghies to a 66-foot Viking convertible, and marine gear and other products filled four tents. About 133 boats were in the water, compared with 119 last year, Show Management reports. The number of boats on land was unavailable. The number of vendors was about the same, but vendor feedback indicated that sales were solid and that the quality of potential customers was higher than at the previous year’s show.

“We found that there is a great demographic here in Sarasota,” says Peter Cook, president of New World Marine in Pompano Beach, Fla., whose main product is the Fendergrip. “The quality of the customer in Sarasota is excellent. As opposed to waiting to make a decision, they are more inclined to make a decision now and buy something at the show, so it has worked out well for us.” Cook sold 500 Fendergrips (five pieces per sale), a solid number for a show this size.


Allen agrees with Cook’s assessment of show-goers. “I am one of the higher-end boats, especially of this size, at the show,” he says. “My type of customer is there, though.”

Indeed, boaters at the Sarasota show were there to buy, says Lou Vinci, owner of Indian Springs Marina in Largo, Fla. Vinci says he closed on four boats within 72 hours of the show’s ending. He sold three Robalos from 22 to 30 feet and a 246 Chaparral. And in early May he was working on deals for three other boats — two 26-foot Robalos and one 228 EdgeWater. Vinci had 11 boats on display. “We were pleased because any time you can turn two boats larger than 24 feet or so from a show, it is a good show, and five or six is a really good show,” he says.

Feedback from dealers and manufacturers of small boats was positive, says Andrew Doole, Show Management’s vice president and COO. “The guys on land with trailerable boats at Sarasota were active as far as sales activity goes,” says Doole. “It was the same situation at Palm Beach [International Boat Show in March] with the smaller boats.”

Dragonfly Boatworks, the Vero Beach, Fla., builder of high-end skiffs and paddleboards, wrote contracts for the sale of two Emerger 16 outboard skiffs and six paddleboards, says company president Mark Castlow. The skiffs, with outboards from 40 to 60 hp, are about $32,000; the 13-foot, 6-inch Dragonfly paddleboards are about $2,200.

“With our company, which does not offer entry-level products, we need a person who has the passion and the ability to purchase one of our products,” Castlow says. “This show brought in the people with both, and even though it’s smaller than Palm Beach it had people that fit our needs. The venue was very conducive to business, and we look forward to being back next year.” At Palm Beach, Dragonfly took four orders on its new 14-foot Marsh Hen skiff and sold 16 paddleboards. The skiff, with a 9.8-hp Evinrude, sells for $10,000.

Allen says he will be back, and so will Michael Turner, a North American importer for Comitti Yachts, an Italian builder of high-end wood and fiberglass runabouts. Turner sold a Venezia 34 twin-sterndrive runabout. He says a well-equipped V 34 Elegance with twin six-cylinder (540- to 640-hp) diesels is $460,000 to $485,000; with twin 640- to 750-hp gas engines it is $420,000 to $440,000.

This was Turner’s first time at Suncoast. In fact, it was the first time the brand has been displayed at a boat show on Florida’s west coast. “It was very positive,” he says. “The interest was strong. I think it paid off for us to show up with some new and exciting-looking boats.”

This article originally appeared in the June 2012 issue.


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