NMMA sees attendance boost at recent shows

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The National Marine Manufacturers Association closed out the third week of the winter show season last weekend, drawing 132,191 boating enthusiasts and shoppers to five of its Progressive Insurance shows.

The New York Boat Show, which returned to its mid-January date pattern this year, saw an increase in attendance of 19 percent, drawing 34,073 visitors during the five-day show.

The Louisville Boat, RV & Sportshow also saw an uptick in attendance, attracting 35,065 attendees, a 4 percent increase from 2014.

Rounding out a five-show weekend were the second annual San Francisco Boat Show, with attendance up 17 percent from 2014, attracting 9,169 visitors; the Kansas City Boat & Sportshow, which drew 20,241; and the Minneapolis Boat Show, which reported 33,643 visitors through the gate — both off 8 percent from 2014.

Initial industry response was unanimous across the board, according to the NMMA. The economy and gas prices have helped bolster consumer confidence, and show visitors came looking to buy, with many exhibitors reporting record sales increases year over year.

“We more than doubled what we did last year with a day to go and have tripled our units 23 feet and up,” Doug Nettles, a Boston Whaler exhibitor in New York, said.

"The San Francisco Boat Show was very successful for Passage Yachts. We got five contracts at the show and more demos and contracts pending and were all ecstatic about the attendance and quality of the people. The show is growing and marketing was phenomenal. We are looking forward to bigger and more exciting exhibits for 2016," said Debbie Reynolds of Passage Yachts, a show exhibitor.

“We’ve already passed last year’s numbers. I didn’t bring enough inventory to keep up with these crowds; a very successful show for us,” said Bob Douthit of Tri-State Trolling Motor, a Kansas City exhibitor.

“We brought back Formula not knowing what to expect since it has been out of the show for four years. The response at the boat show has been phenomenal and we sold a few boats,” said Jon Erickson of Erickson Marine, a Minneapolis exhibitor.

Across the country, boat shows continue to make headlines. Last week, they not only saturated the local news at their locations, but they also drew interest from national media, including USA Today and the Wall Street Journal, helping to drive traffic to shows and awareness of the recreational boating industry.