Sales, attendance up at Toronto boat show

Both boat sales and overall attendance were up at the 2016 Toronto International Boat Show, signaling a stronger boat market north of the border in spite of a tumbling Canadian dollar.

Show owner and producer Canadian Boat Shows Inc. reports boat sales at the 2016 TIBS were up by 16.7 percent over the previous year. By the end of the 10-day show a total of 984 boats had been registered in it’s annual Buy A Boat And Win sales program, which offers consumers with the opportunity to win $10,000 toward their boat purchase while providing the show organizer with an accurate measurement of boat sales. The 2016 sales total is a full 141 units more than the 843 boats sold during the 2015 TIBS, and a full 212 units over the 772 boats sold at the 2014 event, when the Canadian dollar was trading near par with the US dollar.

“The mood from exhibitors prior to the show was uncertain and reserved, due the economic environment,” said show manager Cynthia Hare. “Attitudes of consumers were very positive however, resulting in strong sales and leads throughout the show.”

Brian Tilbury, of Kitchener, Ontario, was selected as the 2016 winner of the $10,000 Buy A Boat and Win jackpot, which will be applied toward his newly-purchased 18-foot Legend aluminum fishing boat.

Attendance for the 58th annual TIBS was also announced as being up slightly this year. A total of 70,643 attendees made their way through the turnstiles, representing a 1 percent increase over the 70,174 people who attended in 2015.

In spite of some lowered expectations going in, a number of exhibitors were pleased with both attendance and sales at this year’s TIBS.

“Last year was a record year for us and this year we’re up almost 20 percent, so to say we’re excited is an understatement,” said Paul Nickel, president of multi-line dealership Pride Marine Group, with 11 locations in Ontario. “It’s a result of the work we’ve done on our brand over the last few years and it continues to get significantly stronger.”

“I was a little concerned by mid-week with all the talk a bout the dollar exchange, but it ended up great,” noted Mike Green of Beneteau and Lagoon dealership Anchor Yacht Sales. “We managed to sell a Lagoon 62 – foot catamaran for $1.5 million euros during the show – yes, euros! – so that really made our week.”

Bob Howell, owner of Chatham, Ontario-based Howell’s Marine, said last year’s TIBS was very good, but this year was even better.

“Our numbers are up about 25%,” he said, “with revenues up accordingly.”

Dave Mayhew at Kingston, Ontario-based Four Winns and Lowe dealership The Boat Warehouse noted, “Pockets of the industry did very well, and the higher end looks positive. We had to work ten times harder this year to explain the currency exchange and higher prices. I don’t know if anyone will believe me, but with all that hard work we’ve ended up about the same as last year – and last year was great!”

Andy Blenkarn of Grady-White, Rossiter and Key West dealer Desmasdon’s Boatworks said “Yes it was tougher this year,. But second only to last year, this has been our best – ever … and we have a ton of great leads to follow up on.”

“Last year’s show was good, but this year was definitely better overall,” noted Lawren Wetzel at accessory retailer Radio World. “With so much that’s new, we saw a lot of boaters doing major retrofits of their electronics.”

Widely considered an economic bellwether for the Canadian recreational boating industry, the Toronto International Boat Show is the largest indoor boat show in North America, covering more than one million square feet of exhibit space and generating more than C$350 million in economic impact to the region.

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