Miami Nice

It’s far too early for most companies to declare 2005 a success as far as their business dealings go, but many have had reason to be optimistic through the first three months of the year.
New industry-wide initiatives that are just beginning to get underway bring hope for growth, early-season sales appear to be strong at many companies, and although the boat show season has been somewhat hit or miss due to a few early season storms, mid-February’s Miami Boat Show — the largest in North America — reportedly did well.
Organizers of the four-day show, which has in the past been a good indicator of the health of the industry, said attendance topped 145,000 this year, a 5-percent increase over 2004, and many exhibitors said sales were up from previous years.
Low interest rates and an improving economy helped the show flourish, and South Florida’s perfect mid-winter weather didn’t hurt either.
“A lot of our shows this winter have just had a horrible string of luck with weather,” said Cathy Johnston, the National Marine Manufacturers Association’s Southern Regional manager. “Our sailboat show in Philadelphia, basically the whole city was shutdown, including the airport, the weekend we were there.
“We had an ice storm in Kansas City, and Baltimore was really bad too. That whole cold front in the Northeast knocked out about five of our shows. We’ve had some slower attendance because of that, but it’s really been weather related.”
However, NMMA said exhibitors at its boat shows reported sales for large boats (40 feet and longer) and high-end boats picked up during the winter show season.
“Recent economic indicators, such as improved consumer confidence numbers, higher than expected job growth and predictions for a sound economy in 2005, have encouraged consumers to invest their discretionary dollars into buying new boats,” said Thom Dammrich, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association.
Dave Northrop, vice president of Sales and Marketing with Tiara Yachts, said January’s New York National Boat Show was his company’s best in three years, in terms of quality and quantity of buyers. Tiara then went on to Miami and did even better, selling more than 70 boats and $32 million — more than doubling the company’s prior record.
Hatteras said it also had strong sales at the Miami show, experiencing a 41 percent increase in total revenue compared to the 2004 show. Bryant Phillips, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Hatteras, said the company’s success at Miami just builds on the success the company has experienced since last October’s Ft. Lauderdale Boat Show.
“This wraps up our 2004/2005 prime selling season in an outstanding manner,” he said. “We saw orders across the product line for customers in the U.S. and abroad. These sales will bolster our already strong backlog, as well as increase our reach into important international markets.”
Grow Boating Update
Dammrich was also part of a presentation on the industry’s Grow Boating Initiative, which took place on the eve of the Miami show.
Hundreds gathered at the Miami convention center as Dammrich, and Marine Retailers Association of America president Phil Keeter, were joined onstage by a host of industry executives who took turns explaining the work being done by the five task forces working on the various facets of the campaign.
Some of the efforts the task forces will be concentrating on include developing a system to provide the industry with more timely and accurate sales statistics, drawing up a consumer bill of rights and improving product and dealer quality with certification programs.
Dammrich said nearly 600 companies had made donations to the GBI Start Up Fund, which at the time had raised $1,913,946 of its $2 million goal. Soon after the show, the GBI surpassed its goal.
Several members of Minneapolis advertising firm Carmichael Lynch, which has been hired to develop the Grow Boating ad campaign, also spoke during the meeting, explaining how the campaign will work, what its goals are, and then showing a few of the ads that have been developed.
Carmichael Lynch said that when the Grow Boating television advertising campaign begins in early February 2006, 250 television ads per week would be run for a period of about three months.
The ads will run in primetime, with a heavier presence Sunday through Tuesday, and will be especially concentrated on Sunday evenings, when people are contemplating the long workweek ahead. They will be run on networks such as ESPN, OLN, Discovery Channel, Comedy Central and FX.
Print ads will also be incorporated into the advertising campaign and be placed in publications such as Sports Illustrated, Time and Popular Mechanics.
The advertising campaign is expected to generate 2.6 billion impressions overall and 500 million in the targeted demographic. About 85 percent of those in the target audience — predominantly male, making more than $50,000 per year and living in a suburb, small town or rural area — will be reached at least three times with the ad campaign, and 68 percent will see at least one of the ads six times, Carmichael Lynch said.
The ultimate goal of the campaign is clear, and the agency seems to have a good handle on it.
“If we’re not selling any boats it doesn’t make sense to be doing any of this,” said Carmichael Lynch president John Colasanti.
In doing research for the campaign, Carmichael Lynch said it found that 7 of 10 people surveyed to determine their familiarity/interest in boating currently had no interest whatsoever.
“About 70 percent of people have decided boating isn’t for them. That’s crazy,” Colasanti said. “Boating can go beyond what [Porsche and Harley Davidson, other Carmichael Lynch clients] have to offer. You already know that. We need to make more people understand that.”
Ken Landon, CEO of Cleveland, Ohio-based Key Recreation Lending, is optimistic the Grow Boating campaign is going to succeed in breeding business opportunity throughout the industry for years to come.
“We think the Grow Boating campaign is going to be good for the industry and will have some light impact this year, and should position the industry well for 2006 and beyond.”
And although some people have been worried that there might be some lingering effects of the four hurricanes that struck the southeastern U.S. last fall, Landon believes the industry weathered any problems those caused.
“We’re excited and optimistic for ‘05 as far as new boat sales and used boat sales,” he said. “We think there will be industry growth across all markets, especially in larger boats, as baby boomer wealth starts to buy larger boats. With the baby boomers, as long as the rest of the economy is OK, we’ll keep this thing going for awhile.”

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