Dealers optimistic after early boat show results
MINNEAPOLIS – Despite decreased attendance at several boat shows, boat dealers from across the country are reporting an improved buying mood, translating to an increase in sales compared to last year.
Boating Industry magazine spoke with four dealers, who combined to attend National Marine Manufacturers Association-produced boat shows in Atlanta, Chicago and New York and the Toronto Boat Show produced by Canadian Boat Shows Inc.
“It was amazing, we would sit down an hour into the show and were writing contracts,” said Austin Singleton, owner of Singleton Marine, speaking about his experience at the Atlanta Boat Show.
Singleton said his dealership doubled sales from last year while also slightly increasing margins.
Despite a seven percent decrease in attendance at the Atlanta show, Singleton said a larger number of attendees were ready to buy and put down their deposit at the show.
For Paul Terzian, whose Causeway Marine attended the New York boat show, it was a year where his salespeople spoke to fewer people but a higher percentage of those people were ready to buy. Despite the 10-percent drop in attendance and fewer people entering their booth, Terzian said they matched last year’s sales at the show.
Attendance at the Toronto Boat Show was up five percent this year, and boat sales coincided with that increase, according to Carly Poole from Buckeye Marine, which sold 10 more units in 2012 than the prior year.
Mike Pretasky Jr. of SkipperBud’s said the overall mood of the Chicago Boat Show was greatly improved over 2011 and his company’s sales slightly exceeded their expectations.
“Overall everybody was really upbeat, especially the customer base, and we were able to sell some boats,” Pretasky Jr. said.
Both Buckeye and Singleton reported seeing the entry-level buyers return to the shows. Singleton estimated 35 percent of their boat sales were to new buyers, while Poole said Buckeye was doing more educating than normal at their booth – something she welcomes.
“We had people coming into our MasterCraft booth and saying ‘what is that metal thing on top of the boat,’” Poole said.
Poole also noticed a demographic change at the Toronto Boat Show, where a much larger Asian population attended – a possible result of a marketing campaign by the boat show to appeal to new ethnic groups, according to Poole.
Terzian said the trend of eager, new buyers was not nearly as apparent at the New York Boat Show, where Causeway Marine collected only a fraction of the leads captured last year. Terzian worries external factors like gas and Washington politics are affecting demand.
“Since the show, I have become concerned about the ridiculous price of gas potentially bringing sales to a screeching halt,” he said.
As far as the performance of individual segments, Singleton was especially pleased with the return of demand for his larger cruiser boats and big bowriders, as well as their entry-level line.
“It was the entry-level and cruiser-type market that went away. It was really refreshing to see them come back. People were willing to write those deals and give those 10-percent deposits,” Singleton said.
Poole said Buckeye also experienced increased entry-level sales over the prior year, while both Poole and Terzian saw the increased interest in pontoons continue at their 2012 shows.