Taking a bite from the Apple

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The Discover Boating Experience — or in 2020 tech terminology DBX — is a new format that will roll out at six NMMA indoor boat shows in the new year. The DBX is a 50-by-50-foot open booth with five staging areas, modeled on a traditional Apple store, that will provide short-form educational seminars, areas to mingle, and other areas with experts, innovative products and advice for first-time boat buyers.

“The DBX has been needed for some time,” Jennifer Thompson, senior vice president of NMMA shows, told Trade Only Today. “We set it up like an Apple store with five stations, with our version of a ‘genius bar’ in front that offers a place for seminars with experts. They’ll provide quick educational programs for boaters like a short-form Ted Talk. The four other booths will have other offerings for both experienced and first-time boaters.”

The DBX displays will be at the Chicago, Atlanta, Baltimore, St. Louis, New England and Atlantic City boat shows. “We’ll also be offering tours of the boat show so newcomers can get a better sense of the layout,” Thompson said.

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Thompson said that DBX will provide an oasis for the rest of the show, while giving potential first-time owners a place to ask for advice about boats and boating. “The show experience can be overwhelming for people new to boating, so this will allow us to give them information about different types of boats in a non-pressure environment,” she said. “We’ll also have a variety of other speakers, including influencers, boating and fishing enthusiasts, liveaboards, and folks who have inspirational stories about boating.”

Beyond the short-form talks, the booths will be used to showcase innovation across the industry, as well as provide boat-care tips, live music and refreshments.

NMMA is partnering with such industry firms as Syntec Industries, which will provide the flooring, and ASA Electronics, which will do the sound systems. Bill Watters, CEO of Syntec and past NMMA chairman, said NMMA came to him after the company had redone its booth at IBEX with its Reflex line, a cushioned floor product designed for the aftermarket.

“We figured it’d be a nicer, softer flooring for these new booths than the traditional expo carpeting,” says Watters. “It also gives us the opportunity to get the product out for boaters to see and experience it.” Syntec will send staff to set up the product at the Chicago and Atlanta shows, and provide materials for the other shows.

Watters hopes to gain some brand recognition from the products, but mostly he is hoping that having marine materials in the booth will help consumers see the innovation that is happening in the industry. “Really, it’s all about helping the industry grow,” he said. “We think that this DBX experience is a good way forward for that.”


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