The winter boat show season is an early — if imperfect — indicator of the year ahead, and as the industry exits the downturn and looks for business to begin to improve in 2011, this year’s shows are being watched more closely than ever. Below we’ve gathered attendance numbers from around the country to provide perspective on how the industry started the new year.
Organizers said totals could have been higher in some cities if not for factors unrelated to boating, including heavy snowstorms in Baltimore and Atlanta, and a Bears playoff game during the Chicago show. However, other shows saw improved weather this year — attendance was up considerably at the Atlantic City show, which lost a day last year to a severe blizzard.
RBC Capital Markets Corp. analyst Edward Aaron was upbeat following the Miami International Boat Show. He said dealers seemed pleased with sales activity, Brunswick and MarineMax appeared to be doing well, and there was a general feeling that the financing environment is gradually improving and the absorption of used inventory will help new boat sales this year. But in a note to investors, he cautioned against getting carried away with all the positive signs.
Download Winter boat shows by the numbers
“It’s important to keep in perspective that boat shows historically have spotty predictive value and that this year’s show faced an easy comparison due in part to bad weather a year ago. While Brunswick and its No. 1 customer, MarineMax, were likely pleased with the outcome of this year’s Miami show, we suspect that both had higher sales growth expectations for the show than for the selling season ahead.”