NMMA continues fight for new dates

If you’re a boater who likes to spend the winter holidays in New York City, you’re in luck this year. You can celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah, see a Broadway show, buy a new yacht at the New York Boat Show and then celebrate the New Year in Times Square. However, if you’re a New York show exhibitor, you may not feel so lucky.
The National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) is unlikely to be able to secure new dates for the 2004 New York Boat Show, scheduled to take place at the Javits Center from December 27 to January 4, a fact that concerns many exhibitors, some of which traditionally have made up to 20 percent of their annual revenue at the show.
Boating takes a back seat?
NMMA has been fighting the loss of the traditional dates for the 93-year-old New York Boat Show – the second week in January – for more than three years. However, despite its efforts, last year the show straddled the Christmas and New Year holiday for the first time and saw attendance drop 26 percent. As a result, some exhibitors have characterized the show as an event in decline, one that will continue to decline without new and improved dates.
The Javits Center originally changed the dates of the show earlier this year in an effort to take on two major trade shows. While the show’s valuation to the city and the state of New York is over $200 million, according to NMMA, negotiations with Javits Center have yet to result in a new time frame.
Show manager Michael Duffy says NMMA remains open in its negotiations to moving the dates to any appropriate period from October to March; but the Javits Center does not have any date ranges that would work for the New York show, which requires 20 days for set up, the show and break down combined.
The show organizer isn’t giving up, however. While a previous letter writing campaign to Javits Center officials was not successful, as of May, NMMA was planning to launch a grassroots letter-writing campaign to the New York governor’s office at the end of the month and to target state senators and representatives in a letter-writing campaign in June or July.
Duffy says it’s very important for exhibitors to be forthcoming in comparing sales and revenues at the 2002 event to those at the 2003 event during the campaign. This hopefully will demonstrate to New York State what it’s losing in state sales tax by failing to support the New York Boat Show.
In addition, NMMA has hired a lobbyist to work on the show dates and has gotten the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut state marine trades associations to agree to make the issue a priority.
Worse in 2004?
In looking ahead, some exhibitors say the 2004 show dates are even worse than 2003 dates, as the show is one day closer to Christmas. Despite their complaints, however, Duffy says he doesn’t expect many past exhibitors to forego the show this year.
“I don’t foresee anyone completely abandoning the New York show because this is an important market,” Duffy explains. However, some exhibitors do plan to reduce the investment of time and money into the show, he acknowledges.
George Pensel of Boats by George!, a Cobalt dealer located in Lake George, N.Y., is one such exhibitor. Pensel says he plans to scale “our efforts as a dealership back,” investing more time instead in promoting “my own business in my own showroom.”
In the past, Pensel says boat shows have made up about 10 to 15 percent of the dealership’s annual sales. While Boats by George! exhibits at other shows, the New York show has been the largest annual event for the dealership, Pensel explains.
However, while some exhibitors are cutting back, others are ramping up, says Duffy. They are taking advantage of “the downsizing of some of their competitors to create a bigger presence for themselves,” he explains, a move that may pay off if the show is able to secure new dates or improve attendance during its current date range.
Hope on the horizon?
The good news for exhibitors is that there is hope on the horizon. NMMA is working hard to improve the 2004 event, increasing its efforts to get the word out about the new dates earlier in the year, adding new incentives to attend the show and expanding the show’s offerings.
The 2004 show will offer a new freshwater boat and fishing section, says Duffy, which has the potential to attract new bass boat dealers and tackle retailers, as well as a new group of potential boat buyers.
In addition, the show will feature a diving village where diving schools and diving equipment manufacturers can exhibit, he adds. In the past, the New York show only attracted one or two diving schools. And finally, a travel and recreation section has also been added.
Despite the likelihood that some exhibitors will cut back on space, Duffy says he expects the show to be the same size or bigger than in the past due to the new sections.
Another bonus: show organizers have learned from last year’s mistakes and plan to close the show on New Year’s Eve, according to Duffy. In addition, NMMA has frozen the price of exhibit space.
Making the best of it
Exhibitors who want to improve their show results can use the posters NMMA is distributing this fall to get the word out about the new show dates in their community, as well as adding the dates to their Web sites, letter head and invoices, says Duffy.
Another option to consider is offering a holiday special to provide attendees with an additional incentive.
For its part, NMMA will be working more closely with the New York City convention visitor’s bureau to offer cross promotions with theaters, restaurants and hotels. In addition, it again will offer its Burger King promotion and feature a Ladies Day special at the show, which Duffy says was a hit last year.
Meanwhile, NMMA has been looking at ways to help 2003 exhibitors make up for lower sales results and prepare for the 2004 show.
It recently contributed advertising and PR assistance to the Long Island Boat Show at the suggestion of exhibitors and is discussing bringing the Discover Boating center to new events, both boating and non-boating, in the tri-state area that fit the industry’s target demographic, according to Duffy.
While some exhibitors have complained that NMMA has not been communicating with them very well during its efforts to lobby for new dates, Duffy says its first New York show exhibitor newsletter went out in May with renewal contracts and will continue to appear monthly until the event. Duffy also said those exhibitors who would like to get more involved with the show are encouraged to join the show committee, which is open to anyone interested.
A final piece of good news: the 2005 event is scheduled for January 1 — 9, avoiding the Christmas holiday all together. — BY Liz Walz

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