Boat shows are “crucial,” suggests study

CHICAGO – In the face of industry concern over the effectiveness of boat shows, boat show producer the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) and the Recreational Marine Research Center at Michigan State University (MSU) have unveiled the results of a year-long study, suggesting boat shows “remain a crucial step in consumers’ final decisions to purchase a boat.”

Initial exhibitor feedback from NMMA’s 2008 fall boat shows supports the MSU study results, as many exhibitors across all four shows reported quality buyers and strong sales, despite a smaller turnout at the gate, according to the boat show producer.

In what NMMA is calling “the largest study of its kind,” MSU surveyed more than 20,000 attendees across all of NMMA’s 2008 consumer boat shows. The results revealed that 55 percent of boat buyers attended a boat show within six months prior to their purchase, according to the association. Of survey respondents, 65 percent agreed that attending a boat show actually increased their desire to purchase a boat, it added.

“As evidenced by the MSU findings, boat shows are more important than ever — particularly given the economic challenges our industry is facing,” said Ben Wold, NMMA executive vice president. “The Internet is a terrific research tool, but from our experience and what buyers tell us there’s nothing like hands-on, face-to-face time at a boat show to really get people off the boat-buying fence. Boat shows are the strongest ‘call to action’ when it comes to communicating with potential buyers.”

Additional MSU study findings include:

  • 86 percent said attending a show increased their desire to go boating
  • 50 percent said they went to the show with no intention of buying a boat, but became interested once onsite
  • 15 percent said they intended to buy a boat at the show
  • 5 percent said they actually bought a boat at the show
  • 73 percent said they attended the show to buy accessories
  • 65 percent said they will buy products they saw at the show
  • 47 percent said they spoke with 3 to 5 dealers at the show
  • 49 percent said they intend to follow up with a dealer they spoke with at the show
  • 45 percent said they have a household income over $100,000
  • In addition, despite attendance decreases at all four NMMA fall boat shows — including the Tampa Boat Show (Sept. 5-7), Toronto In-Water Boat Show (Sept. 11-14), Virginia In-Water Boat Expo & Sailfest (Sept. 12-14), and Norwalk International In-Water Boat Show (Sept. 18-21) — exhibitor reports suggested they were pleased with the quality of show attendees and were successful in selling boats and related accessories, according to NMMA.

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