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St. Pete Boat Show upbeat and positive!

I wish I could report sales were booming at the St. Petersburg Boat Show & Strictly Sail that closed on Sunday. Unfortunately, “booming” didn’t apply. But, while sales appeared to remain hard to close, interest evidenced by good attendance and serious discussions were welcomed signals.

“We have some excellent possibilities,” said Terry Freeman of Freeman-Eckley Boats (Edgewater). “In normal times we’d probably call them ‘sold’ but in today’s climate we hesitate to say that until we see how the financing goes.” 

Ted Meljac, Thunder Marine (Four Winns, Hydra Sports, Riviera), echoed Freeman’s comments. “Financing is definitely in the back of your mind whenever you’re working a deal here,” he said. “But we’re seeing more interest than I’ve seen for some time, the attendance has been surprisingly good and it’s a positive weekend for us.”

Meljac, a veteran salesman and old friend, really interested me when he shared the fact that he put particular emphasis on several non-currents in the display. Supported by some strong manufacturer assistance, these boats were very favorably priced. In fact, they were really selling at prices from several years ago! “For people looking at larger boats, these prices are truly affordable,” Meljac boasted. “And the affordability message is what seems to be resonating with people here. I tell them once these boats are gone, they’re gone. They’ll never buy this cheap again, and it’s true.”

Meljac, Freeman and others all pointed to two important realizations. First, the good attendance and the discussions with prospects all confirmed there’s a growing pent-up demand for boats. They believe the longer sales remain depressed, the bigger the pent up demand will become. When it finally begins to unload, and it will, business will be good for some time.

Second, people are simply afraid to buy right now. They say they feel poor even if they’re not! In an article from the Wall Street Journal, Dave Kansas, president of FiLife.com, observed that the illusion of wealth gives way to the illusion of relative poverty when the news is all bad. “It doesn’t make any difference that most of us continue to hold down the same jobs we had before unemployment rates started to rise,” he wrote. “It doesn’t matter that our personal circumstances are the same as they’ve been for the past few years. What matters, instead, is the vague uncertainty that has descended on us. What matters is our unknown future.”

Economists know this well. They call it the wealth effect, and it maintains that when people simply feel their wealthier because of rising home values or a rising stock market their wallets open, and vice versa.

It seems, then, that selling the idea that “boating is affordable” may well be a key to success at this winter’s boat shows. In fact, it’s already been announced by two major shows – Los Angeles and Chicago – that affordability will take center stage in their advertising and in special displays. Dealers in their show displays and in their stores, should play off the same message.

Comments

6 comments on “St. Pete Boat Show upbeat and positive!

  1. Boatman 11

    The truth is, for many of us our personal circumstances are NOT the same as they were before, even with holding down the same job. My retirement savings have gone down about 60-70 percent. The stock market , people’s 401k’s, IRA’S etc. have lost tremendous value, and it will take years for many of these to return to previous levels, if ever. It is not a question of ‘feeling poor”. People’s home values have been cut in half. Peoples tenants in their businesses are leaving…….many are struggling just to stay solvent! This is not an Illusion. This is reality.

  2. Kevin Mahoney

    I agree….the St Pete Show was was of the best attended shows I have seen in a long time. The customers were activiely shopping, were very qualifies, and knowledgable……were doing their comparisons, eliminating the competition, and shy of giving us the actual deposits….they were making their buying decisions. A number of boats were sold at the show….but in general…think we made a major investment in future sales. Many consumers are going to wait until the new administration gets into office…may be waiting to see if rates or credit criteria come more into line….and the customers have told us…your boat is ourchoice to buy….and as soon as I am comfortable….we will go forwrad. This show will definitly result in sales….and the dealers need to stay on top of these “pre-sold” customers….and be in a position to capitilize on the sales when their prospects finally give us the thumbs up.
    Kevin Mahoney/ Monterey

  3. Rich

    Kevin: Nothing personal, but I have worked with and against you for the past 15 years. It is still the same rah rah lets look to the future that you are famous for. The reality is, dealers don’t need rhetoric and cheer leaders right now; they need banks and financial instituiotns to star funding again. My dealers are having a hard time taking my pep talks to the bank right now to pay for mortgages, electric, employees (if they still have them), etc. Instead of everybody living a pipe dream with bigger and better things to come in the future, there needs to be a voice demanding that the $$$?????? however many billions we tax payers have spent for the financial bail outs to be spent on what it was intended for… increasing the economy. I have over $300,000 in orders that I can’t get funding on right now… I am to the point of asking the cheerleaders out there to go ahead and cash in those contracts they are so sure of in the future, with the security of knowing things are going to get better!

  4. LARRY RODRIGUEZ

    RICH I AGREE……….
    EVERYBODY IS LOOKING FOR THE POT OF GOLD AT THE END OF THE RAINBOW.
    HOWEVER THE POT IS EMPTY, FOR THE BANKERS HAVE BEEN RECENTLY HOLDING THE GOLD, THEY LIKE A LOT OF CONSUMERS KEEP WAITING FOR THINGS TO REACH BOTTOM, THE PROBLEM WITH “THE BOTTOM” IS THAT IT IS USUALLY DOWN LOW IN THE BASEMENT, OR EVEN LOWER, WHERE THERE’S USUALLY DARKNESS, WHERE YOU CAN’T SEE WELL UNLESS YOU HAVE SOME SORT OF LIGHT OR FLASHLIGHTS.
    PERHAPS WE SHOULD ALL GET READY AND START SELLING FLASHLIGHTS!!
    THE ABOVE IS ONE WAY OF LOOKING AT OUR PRESENT STATE OF PANIC.
    HOWEVER THE CHOICES ARE MANY; THERE ARE NO RAINBOWS, LIFE IS FULL OF UPS & DOWNS, THE “BOTTOM” IS AN ILLUSION CREATED BY PERCEPTION, AND EVERYONE’S PERCEPTION IS DIFFERENT ALTHOUGH THE MEDIA & WALL STREET ARE SURE MESSING WITH OUR PERCEPTIONS, BUT TILL THE BANKS LET GO OF THE GOLD, HANG ON FOR WE’RE IN FOR A VERY WILD RIDE.
    ONE TRUTH MY UNCLE WHO WENT THROUGH THE DEPRESSION, TOLD ME A LONG WHILE AGO, “TOUGH PEOPLE WILL ALWAYS OUTLAST TOUGH TIMES”

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