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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

SPINNING THE BOAT SHOWS

We attend most of the boat shows on the eastern seaboard including Toronto, Annapolis, Fort Lauderdale & Miami. To be sure it is apparent that boat and yacht sales are in a mild recovery in North America. Not in all sectors though. The larger yachts 50’ and over are selling modestly but at an encouraging level. Smaller boats 30’ and under are selling modestly at an encouraging level. It seems the boats 30’ to 50’ are somewhat lagging.

It’s always a joy for me to attend ANY boat show especially if it’s somewhere warm during the Canadian winter. I love them all, but especially I like going to South Beach Miami to the Miami Boat Show. I just like the vibe in Miami. But lately I see that even when a show looks lite and poorly attended the show operators spin it into best ever show, sales up by X %, attendance up by X % and life has never been better. We deal with enough brokers and enough show participants are clients to know that that is not entirely true. Some shows are still experiencing hit and miss attendance. Things are looking better and manufacturers are coming out with new designs - not just repackaged old designs. Builders are starting to innovate again. But few builders of the larger boats are building on spec at this point in time. The upper middle class in the above 30’ range has not recovered and may be a split audience that may take many more years to fully recover.

We all hope the economy rockets back at some point and boat sales robustly follow along. Their are some positive sign in the markets and recent studies prove that boat sales track the ups and downs of the markets. But lets be honest, it isn’t always good news and we are nowhere close to the salad days we had five to ten years ago. The recession past was serious business and technically even though we’re out of it, we’re still feeling some after shocks from time to time - just like post earthquake symptoms.

But really, I don’t think it’s helpful if a show is down from one year to the next and everyone associated in the industry spins it into something it’s not. I’d rather see the message that - yes things were down, but this is the time to buy as we can all feel that we are on the cusp of leading out from this nightmare that we’ve seen over the last four years. And this is the best opportunity right now to buy a new or used boat before things fully stabilize and prices head up along with inflation. In fact I would argue that the best opportunities were two years ago and at this point in time this is the last chance before prices go onward and upward. A sure sign that I take notice of in my own backyard is that marinas/boat dealerships are consolidating. The ones that got batted around for four years and can’t take it anymore are getting out ... and the ones that see the opportunity coming down the track are getting in big time and scooping up as much as they can take on.

Posted by at 7:39 AM
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