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Used Boats To Appear In Winter Shows?

For more than 50 years now, major market winter boat shows have featured strictly new boats. In fact, until the early 1990’s, the rules at most big shows barred even new non-current models from the floor. To talk about displaying some used boats would have been called sacrilege! Apparently, no longer.

The Cleveland Boat & Waterfront Lifestyles Expo, in what is believed to be a first for a major-market winter indoor show, has decided to break with tradition and add a Pre-Enjoyed Boat Pavilion to its 2009 event in January. The show is produced by the Lake Erie Marine Trades Association (LEMTA) and President Ken Alvey described the decision this way:

“We are in extraordinary economic times,” he explained. “Our dealers are fighting to keep their doors open. Against such a background, we find it foolish to stand on tradition when we could possibly develop much-needed additional sales for our dealers by changing our policies. The attitude of the LEMTA Board and the Show Committee is ‘we can come back to tradition in better times, but for now we’ll do whatever may help dealers sell and raise cash.’ Used boats will help,” he predicted.

The idea of showing only new boats goes back to the very early boat shows of more than 50 years ago (shows such as New York, LA, Detroit, Cleveland) when the clear purpose for those shows was to introduce the new models for that year. The new-boats-only concept simply stuck as a tradition.

There was also an underlying concern that having used boats in the same arena with new boats would hurt the sales prospects for the new boats. However, the industry’s in-water boat shows have debunked that argument since they’ve included used boats virtually from their inception without controversy and with no evidence new boats sales have seen any negative impact from it.

The plan in Cleveland calls for the pre-owned boats to be grouped together as a special Pavilion on the main show floor. Though each boat in the Pavilion will be signed with detailed information, the boats will not be manned so prospects will have to go to the exhibitor’s main display to make further inquiries. According to Alvey, other conditions also apply regarding age, condition and an inspection. However, since LEMTA announced the plan to its members last week, 11 dealers have reserved space for 21 boats in the Pavilion.

I can’t help thinking this idea may be way overdue but time gets us so set in our ways that it takes a shock like the brutal times were in to change our view. And, after all, recent studies revealed the overwhelming majority of boat sales annually are used. Moreover, I’m thinking the boating public will embrace this idea, too. On balance, the new models will be there as usual, but now there will be an added dimension that will likely appeal to a wider audience.

A tip of the hat to LEMTA for being aggressive and bold moves. 

Comments

13 comments on “Used Boats To Appear In Winter Shows?

  1. Rich

    The problem/ and solution is: Without new boat sales, there are no used boats for the market. Right now we are doing a tight-rope dance on the edge of a sword!

  2. Jim Self

    I think this is a great idea and will certainly help dealers improve cash flow if they can sell them, as we all know most used boats are not on a floor plan and in most cases are owned outright by the dealerships. It may also help attract new boaters that may feel they can not afford a new boat at the moment, it will all depend on how they are priced in comparison to a similar new model but it is an idea fefinately worth trying.

  3. marty

    Putting a positive twist on this show issue isn’t really helping. I’m guessing this wonderful new idea is only the solution to filling unsold floor space. Let’s try to tell the whole story.

  4. Tony

    I think this is exactly the kind of “out of the box” thinking required to keep boat dealers alive right now. Almost every new prospect I have is looking for a used boat, not a new one. If managed correctly, and it appears this venue has a good handle on it, this could be a win-win-win for all involved…the promoter, the dealer, and the consumer. I hope this trend catches on for the near term at least.

  5. Tom Mack

    Lemta should be applauded for breaking tradition and responding to the present economic times. It’s been increasingly difficult to justify a dealer’s marketing expense for a 100% new boat show – when the opportunities are much better with pre-owned boats coming into the mix. For now, this is a great plan. If successful in Cleveland, many others will likely follow that.

    Yes – it certainly helps fill floor space; what’s not to like about that for the future vitality of shows? This is obvious, not any secret. Many shows have declined in size and attendance to critical points, so finding new ideas that increase opportunities and most likely attendance is key!

  6. Schwarzel

    When times are hard used product sells, that is a fact. This may increase the door numbers by letting used product in the show. Norm I’ll bet you’ll keep us informed on that. Now we will see if the parking fees and door prices will keep people away.

  7. LARRY RODRIGUEZ

    WHY DO WE PROCRASTINATE ON SOLUTIONS? IT’S A SHAME THAT IT TAKES THE ENGINE BLOWING UP, TO REMINDS US TO CHANGE THE OIL!
    IT’S NO DOUBT AN IDEA THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN IN PLACE LONG AGO. AFTER ALL HOW LONG HAS THE MARINE INDUSTRY (BOAT DEALERS IN PARTICULAR) BEEN STRUGGLING?
    A SECTION OF “NICE” PRE-OWNED BOATS WILL MOST LIKELY CATCH ON WITH CONSUMERS, AS THE WORD GETS AROUND. IT JUST MAY SAVE THE BOAT SHOW INDUSTRY AS WELL, LETS FACE IT, PROMOTERS HAVE ALSO BEEN STRUGGLING.
    BORROWING TONY WORDS, I BELIEVE THIS IS CERTAINLY A WIN-WIN-WIN!

  8. brad

    this is something i have put up for option with the dealers in the past, with mixed results. one issue is there is no coop with used boats to help pay for the space. on the upside you will definitely attract a potential consumer that may not otherwise come to the show. a huge advantage is the dealer has a shot at selling them a used boat of the line they carry that they might not otherwise meet. i would limit the used boat section to those that exhibit new ones.

  9. dave boso

    I once knew a dealer from St. Ives
    That said he sold boats by the fives,
    On the way to the show he sold three don’t you know
    customers would follow whereever he’d go.

    That dealer said price was the key
    The cheaper they were the better they be,
    but I havn’t seen him around
    and his store is now empty ground.

  10. Jose Moniz

    I’ve always felt that “most” dealers have been missing a great opportunity. How many times have I seen a great used boat sitting on a dealers lot but in need of cosmetic work that susequently turned off potential buyers. Again,”most” dealers so no future in reconditioning older boats. Car dealers have done it for years, very successfully.
    I’m all for pre-owned boats at shows. If your trying to “grow boating industry revenu” it’s not going to come from all “new boat sales”. For every used boat sold, you have accessory companies, canvas shops and mechanics that will benefit along with insurance companies, marinas and so on. I think you get my drift.

    As a matter of fact we did a TV show a few years back with Bill Sisson on “buying a used boat” and the reponse we recieved from that show was surprising.

    Let’s get on with also pushing used boat sales as much as possible AND there are virtual fleets of used boats out there for sale.

    Jose

  11. LARRY RODRIGUEZ

    WELL, I WAS GLAD TO READ TODAY THE NMMA IS ALSO GETTING WITH THE PROGRAM, AND RELAXING THE NEW BOAT CRITERIA, AND ALLOWING THE NEW WAVE TO TAKE PLACE.
    “TIMES ARE A CHANGING……….”

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