Slow start for boat shows in 2013


By Christopher Gerber
January 15, 2013
Filed under Features, Top Stories

Sliding consumer confidence may be playing a part in reduced boat show attendance, as dealer optimism and positive trending consumer confidence wasn't able to drive consumers into boat shows this last weekend, leading to flat or decreased attendance at several boat shows across the U.S.

Boat shows struggled to pull boaters away from the TV on Sunday, and the Progressive Insurance Atlanta Boat Show saw an 11 percent drop in attendance despite show organizers noticing positive attendance growth through the first three days of the show.

Despite the drop on Sunday, show organizer Larry Berryman said that many boat dealers were reporting a positive show and exhibitors mentioning sales gains over 2012.

At the Progressive Insurance Kansas City Boat Show, attendance was down around 9 percent compared to 2012, with just under 22,000 visitors over the four-day show. Attendance was down 9 percent in 2011, as well. Despite the lower attendance, exhibitors reported improvement over 2012.

“It’s been a great show. Numbers are better than last year.” Greg Surdyke, Surdyke Yamaha Marine, said in a note provided by Kansas City Boat Show organizers.

In Nashville and Chicago, attendance was relatively flat with last year. Attendance at the Progressive Insurance Chicago Boat, Sports & RV Show was up by 2 percent, with 35,119 attendees during the four-day show.

“We are at a record pace," said Mark Biasco of Munson Ski in a note provided by show organizers. "Existing owners that have been waiting to upgrade came out of the woodwork.”

Attendance at the Progressive Insurance Nashville Boat & Sportshow was up around 1 percent, with 13,866 attendees in 2013. This was the show's final year, and organizers said that participants at the Nashville show are looking forward to moving to the new larger venue, Music City Center, in 2014.

"Our goal was to sell 5 boats, and we sold 11”, said Mike Helms, Calico Jacks.

There will be no boat shows to compete with the NFL Conference championships this weekend, with the next NMMA shows beginning the following week. The Progressive Insurance Louisville Boat, RV & Sportshow is next on the calendar, scheduled to run January 23 through 27.

The NMMA's first sail show of 2013 also begins in two weeks. The Progressive Insurance Strictly Sail Chicago show is scheduled to run January 24 through 27.


5 Responses to “Slow start for boat shows in 2013”

  1. Patrick Turner on January 15th, 2013 12:27 pm

    I'll Say it............. Maybe it's too many boat shows!!!!!!!!!!


  2. Thom Dammrich on January 15th, 2013 1:37 pm

    Chris, your slant on this misses the real story. Yes, total attendance was down in two markets and up in two markets, but the buyers were out. Reports of sales from dealers and manufacturers from the shows are the most positive we have heard in years! From my perspective we are off to a very strong start to 2013. Bodies through the turnstile is a metric, but we produce shows to sell product of the industry and it is selling!


  3. Ken Lamain on January 15th, 2013 1:41 pm

    Who thought of that title for the story? After you get to the bottom of the story, you find a dealer that more than doubled his expectations. Have you ever looked at the glass as half full? How about leading with the shows that were up in attendance. The show we displayed at last weekend, Novi Michigan was up about 15% in attendance and sales were as expected. Come on guys, good attitude breeds success as well as negative breeds more negative. Thanks, Ken Lamain


  4. Adam Almeida on February 2nd, 2013 11:50 am

    I think shows may be the old way of doing things and our customers know it, lets follow their lead. Real buyers are bored with shows, up and down the isles/docks like robots. Same thing every year for 20 years. Our area dealers (Narragansett bay RI/MA) have been teaming up to do local more event style shows that promote boating more than boats. I think the industry needs a new way of thinking. Focus on the activity not the product. Ya ya its been said before but not acted upon. Just my 2 pennies worth...


  5. Arch on February 19th, 2013 5:14 pm

    This is probably the first time in 4 years where I find myself siding with the OPTIMISTS. I have attended a dozen or more boat shows in the South East so far this year and it's been overwhelmingly positive. Attendance has been flat or down but sales have been UP. The same scenario applies to the Miami show. I doubt attendance was up from prior years but 2/3 of the brokers I spoke to were very happy. Heck, some of them were down right ecstatic.
    So, I have to agree with Thom and Ken to a point. One could argue that while the title is premature, you did say "SLOW START". But I agree that the focus should be on sales, not traffic. In which case it was not a slow start and if anything, a better start to the season than previously thought.


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