Seattle Boat Show attendance up despite shorter show

SEATTLE – There’s much to celebrate in Seattle these days—not just the Seahawks bringing home the Vince Lombardi trophy, but for those in the recreational boating industry, the completion of an extremely successful 9-day Seattle Boat Show and strong January boat sales. When the Seahawks beat the 49-ers to advance to the Championship Game, the show organizers, the Northwest Marine Trade Association (NMTA) and the Northwest Yacht Brokers Association (NYBA), made the unprecedented decision to close the show one day early for the historic game. The results are now in and the show is clearly in the win column. Final attendance for the show which ended on February 1, 2014, was up 2%, despite the shorter show, with attendance of 51,684 (in nine days) compared to 50,653 (in 10 days) last year. Exhibitors across the board were extremely positive about the quantity and quality and positive attitude of show attendees. 

The Vancouver B.C. show and the inaugural San Francisco Boat Show which coincided with the opening weekend of the Seattle Boat Show appear to have had little impact. The opening weekend was very strong with attendance up 12% over the opening weekend of 2013. Attendees came from 32 states, five Canadian provinces, and as far away as Sao Paulo, Brazil.  Many exhibitors commented on a strong Canadian presence at the show.

“Closing the Show a day early was absolutely the right decision,” said George Harris, president, NMTA.  “Northwest boaters love their Show and their Seahawks and they were able to celebrate both. We were very pleased to see an increase in attendance, despite the shorter show. Attendees showed up with enthusiasm, ready to shop, plan and prepare for every type of boating in the Northwest, and the reports from our exhibitors are some of the most positive we’ve seen in years.”

Exhibitors upbeat about the Show

Exhibitors from all aspects of the industry had extremely positive things to say about the show. Comments included:

  • This was the best Boat Show we’ve seen in seven years, and we’re still following up on leads and expect even more business to come in as a result of the show. “  Greg Allen, owner, Yacht Masters NW, outfitter of fine yachts.
  • “We saw fewer ‘lookers’ and ‘dreamers’ than in recent years and many more buyers this year.  We were up 12% in units over last year and 30% in dollar volume. This was our best show since 2006.”  James Baker, vice president, Seattle Boat Company, dealer for Cobalt and Malibu boats.
  • “It was the best Boat Show we’ve ever had in our seven years in business. We’ve written a lot of estimates, we’ve seen really qualified buyers and we have a lot of new clients coming out of the show. It’s been amazing.”  Ryan Parker, S3 Maritime, providers of systems, service and support.
  •  “This was the best Seattle Boat Show I’ve seen in six years.  Consumers were upbeat, positive and enthusiastic, as were exhibitors.  I was also very excited to see so many young families and families with kids in strollers enjoying the show. It bodes very well for the coming years for our industry.”  Bruce Hedrick, editor, Northwest Yachting Magazine.
  • “We saw strong demand from both our retail and wholesale customers and it gives us great confidence about 2014.  Notable also was an increased interest in high-ticket items as more of our customers are looking to invest in major upgrades to their boats.  The average value of the products we sold this year was almost 10% higher than at the 2013 Show.” Carl Sutter, president, Fisheries Supply Company, the largest supplier of marine products to the Pacific Northwest.  Fisheries has exhibited in every Seattle Boat Show since the event began in 1947.
  • “I was part of the Northwest Paddling Festival information booth at the Show and was so impressed with the Show that I plan to be back next year with a booth for my business, Mountain to Sound Outfitters. The interest in paddling sports was high and the Show is clearly a great venue for reaching paddling enthusiasts.”  Greg Whittaker, owner, Mountain to Sound Outfitters and co-founder, Northwest Paddling Festival.

January Boat Sales Data

Other very encouraging signs for the Northwest recreational boating industry are the just released numbers for new boat sales in Washington State. According to UW Sea Grant, which compiles sales data from the Washington State Department of Licensing, new boat sales by dealers were up 50% in units and 35% in dollar value in January 2014 over January 2013. This is the largest increase in units since January 2010 and, before that, 2006, and the highest January dollar volume since 2007.

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