Boat show wake-up call issued

CHICAGO – Boat show exhibitors could be selling a lot more boats and accessories at boat shows than they currently are.

That’s the message being delivered as Michigan State University’s Recreational Marine Research Center (RMRC) unveils the results of its recent boat show survey.

The survey reveals 60 percent of responding parties who attended at least one of the nine 2007 boat shows studied are considering the purchase of a new or pre-owned boat in the future. Twenty percent of these parties came to a show with the intention of purchasing a boat. What’s more, 53 percent of parties, who had no intention of buying a boat at a show, became interested as a result of attending a show, reported RMRC.

While these results demonstrate that shows produce significant boat sales, just 25 percent of those parties who attended a show with the intention to buy a boat actually purchased a boat during the show. As a result, approximately 75 percent of boat sales were left on the table, concluded researchers.

The survey, conducted on behalf of the Boat Show Research Partnership, examined survey results of 5,356 respondents from nine major boat shows across the United States, in order to better understand overall visitor purchase decisions, habits, and interests associated with boat shows. Respondents were grouped into parties, with each party representing 2.7 people.

“This data helps tell the story we’ve always known to be true — boat shows play a significant role in the sale of new boats and accessories, but it also indicates there are significant opportunities to increase sales at shows and to influence potential buyers toward purchasing boats following shows,” said Thom Dammrich, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA). “This is a wake up call for our industry to improve our marketing and sales efforts with potential buyers during and immediately following boat shows.”

The survey also reports the most important reasons people visit a boat show. They are (in descending order): To view new boat models; for fun; to research boats for a future purchase; to view or purchase boating accessories; to compare boat prices; and, to get the best price on a new boat.

“To capture more of the potential sales during and immediately after boat shows, organizers, dealers and exhibitors need to understand and meet the expectations of different boat show market segments,” said Dr. Ed Mahoney, co-director of the RMRC. “We know from the data that there is significant potential for boat dealers at boat shows, but one of the more surprising findings is that 71 percent of respondents said they attend boat shows to purchase or view boating accessories — that’s a tremendous opportunity for the accessories industry.”

The survey reveals boat shows have a long shelf life and the impacts of a boat show on attendees last long after the show ends in terms of generating boat and accessory sales. Half of the 2007 boat show attendees plan to follow up with a dealership they spoke with while at a show.

Further, approximately half of the survey respondents indicated that, at some time in the past, they purchased a boat from a dealership they spoke with during a show, in the six months following the show.

Additional survey findings include:

  • 94 percent agree boat shows help them stay informed about new boats
  • 87 percent agree boat shows increase their desire to go boating
  • 90 percent agree boat shows help them stay informed about new boat accessories
  • 69 percent agree boat shows increase their desire to purchase a boat
  • 57 percent agree boat shows are usually part of their boat buying process
  • 61 percent agree after attending a boat show they will buy accessories they saw at the show rather than ones they have not seen
  • “These results clearly demonstrate the importance of boat shows as a way for our industry to build boat and accessory brands among boaters,” said Van Snider, president of the Michigan Boating Industries Association. “We’re excited because this survey confirms our long time belief that boat shows do in fact attract new boaters.”

    The Boat Show Research Partnership is comprised of the Connecticut Marine Trade Association, Marine Industries Association of Florida, Michigan Boating Industries Association, National Marine Manufacturers Association, New York Marine Trades Association, and Southern California Marine Association. This research effort is the first of its kind to collect scientifically consistent information across several different boat shows, according to organizers.

    The nine shows surveyed include the New York National Boat Show, Atlanta Boat Show, Daytona Beach Spring Boat Show, Hartford Boat & Fishing Show, Long Island Boat Show, Los Angeles Boat Show, St. Louis Boat and Sportshow, Detroit Boat Show, and Spring Boating Expo in Novi, Michigan. Participation in the Boat Show Research Partnership is open to all show producers. Complete survey results are available only to participating producers.

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