Sail America launches new boat show strategy

MIDDLETOWN, R.I. – Sail America is launching an all-new, all-sail show in Philadelphia next January as part of what it’s calling “a dramatic new strategy for marketing its national sailing shows in each major region of the country.”

As part of this strategy, Sail America will no longer host the Atlantic Sail Expo and NY/NJ Sail Expo shows, the association reported in a statement today. Instead, it will “consolidate and target the resources of the sailing industry behind a single, strong mid-winter show in Philadelphia.”

After extensive industry research and feedback, Sail America members decided the opportunity in Philadelphia would unify industry efforts that previously had been split between the two Sail Expo shows in Atlantic City and the New York/New Jersey markets, according to the association.

“When we opened the NY/NJ show, what we did was allow the industry to split, where essentially boat builders were committed to Atlantic City, [while] gear manufacturers and supporting services were more excited about the NY/NJ show,” said Sail America Executive Director Scot West. “By running two shows in the same market, we ended up with two shows that did not reach their potential.”

New national strategy launched

The association said the new marketing strategy gives Sail America, the U.S. sailing industry trade association, a strong presence and thrust in each major sailing area of the country at the most important time of the year: the Philadelphia show will target the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast markets; Strictly Sail Chicago targets the Midwest; Strictly Sail Miami targets the Southeast; and the Pacific Sail Expo targets sailors in the West.

Sail America said it plans to package these four shows as four prime buying and selling opportunities to the industry from the third week in January to the third week in April.

At the same time, the Sail Expo St. Pete show committee has unified in the positioning of Sail Expo St. Pete as a local show, with marketing focused on Florida’s Gulf Coast and Southeast sailors, the association reported.

Selecting Philadelphia

The new Philadelphia show will run Jan. 20-23, 2005 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, and Sail America said it has secured comparable dates for 2006 and 2007. Exhibit show space is roughly the size of Strictly Sail Chicago’s show, with opportunities for growth right away.

“Philadelphia is the perfect answer to all of our challenges,” said Bill Bolin, vice president of the Sail America National Boat Show Committee. “Again Atlantic Sail Expo has been one of the top-selling shows and this location still allows us to deliver this buying market, increase the gate, and drastically improve the entire show experience for sailors and exhibitors alike.”

Yet the driving force behind the decision to go to Philadelphia was the need for Sail America to hold a single show in the Mid-Atlantic/Northeast market to combine and consolidate mid-winter resources and strengths behind one show.

“It was crystal clear — the gear manufacturers, supporting services and customized niche boat builders said they wanted one show in this market in mid-winter,” said West. “In effect, they said, ‘find us one show and we’ll get behind it.’”

Philadelphia’s proximity in the middle of a strong buying market, a world-class convention center and metropolitan hotels and restaurants were key attractions in leading Sail America members to select it as the new show location, according to the association.

“We’re taking the power of the market, plus putting the show in a new dramatic convention center with a downtown location and metropolitan offerings to make sure that sailors and exhibitors have a better time both at the show and outside show hours,” Bolin said. “We’re focused on putting on a show that will be everything that the industry wants and has always wanted from a Mid-Atlantic show.”

With more than 650 members, Sail America is an independent affiliate of the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

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