Companies optimistic but uncertain at Boot Dusseldorf

Day 1 of Boot Dusseldorf is in the books, and it was an interesting day. As I noted earlier, it’s my first time at the show, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.

First of all, this is one heck of a big show. One reason, of course, is that they’ve got the superyachts in the exhibit halls rather than on the water like we’re used to seeing at U.S. shows. According to show management, there were expected to be 1,813 exhibitors from 70 countries spread across 220,000 square meters or about 2.3 million square feet. Definitely a busy day — no official numbers from show management yet.

Generally, the exhibitors and attendees I talked to were optimistic about the state of the market here and in the United States, where many of them do some business. They feel like both markets are poised to have big years, but … (And that’s a big “but”) … they’re also a little nervous about the results of the two big votes last year: Brexit and the election of President Trump.

On the one hand, the Brexit has weakened the pound, creating opportunity for some companies, but also raising long-term concerns about Great Britain as a market.

More importantly, especially to those of us back home, there’s a lot of concern about the new U.S. president. I was asked by at least a dozen people today what I thought he was going to do. Most notably, the European manufacturers are worried about potential tariffs or other steps the new administration may take to slow imports. (Of course, proposals the administration might make to benefit U.S. manufacturing aren’t designed to please European manufacturers, so this shouldn’t really be a surprise.)

Right now, many of these European companies are enjoying the import opportunities presented to them by the strong dollar, but worry that market could take a hit if new import costs offset that strength.

There are also plenty of U.S. companies here looking to reach the European market (Sea Ray, Chris Craft, Boston Whaler, Chaparral, Cobalt, MasterCraft to name a few). So at times the show floor, especially in the motor boat halls, has a decidedly American feel. (As does the press room, which, for some reason, has 70s and 80s U.S. pop music playing over the sound system.)

But there is one way you know you’re not at a U.S. show — I’ve only seen one pontoon manufacturer here.

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