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New York 2008: a report from the boat show

NEW YORK — The New York National Boat Show opened over the weekend, and there has been mixed reaction to the earlier dates.

The show, which runs through Sunday, is nearly two weeks earlier than the last five years, when the dates straddled the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

Exhibitors say attendance is down so far, but those coming to the show are serious shoppers looking to buy. Last year’s attendance was 61,464.

While official attendance numbers aren’t yet available, exhibitors said they noticed lighter traffic. Many, however, said they were still getting quality leads they hope will translate to sales by the end of the show or shortly thereafter.

“The story will be this [coming] weekend,” said Charlie Gulick, of Off Shore Marine, who was in the Nautiques by Correct Craft booth. He said the second weekend of the show is traditionally better than the first. “It will be interesting to see how it plays out.”

Matthew Barbara, president of the New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island region for MarineMax, said it sold as many boats the first weekend of the show as last year, despite the turnout. He had sold 20 units as of Tuesday afternoon, the fourth day of the show.

Other exhibitors, however, reported different results.

“It’s like throwing a party and nobody came,” is how one exhibitor, who asked not to be identified, described the show. He said to run the show two weeks before Christmas, when everyone is busy getting ready for the holidays, was a bad idea.

Gary Kloepfer, from Great Bay Marine, agreed. “There’s too many things going on this time of year. There’s too many distractions.”

But, he added, if someone has the means and desire to boat, there’s no better time than now to buy — there are some deals at the show.

Show manager Michael Duffy, from the National Marine Manufacturers Association, said there are 255 contracted companies exhibiting and about 100 dealers. That compares with about 275 to 280 companies and 120 dealers in recent years.

Duffy said ideally the NMMA would like to move the show to mid-January, and he hopes to do so next year. Because the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center won’t contract on shows until 12 months out, it is unknown right now when the 2009 show will be held, Duffy explained.

For more on the new “Affordability Pavilion,” which debuted at the New York National Show, check out Trade Talk.

— Beth Rosenberg



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