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Is the Miami show game-on-the-line for some?

Itís likely to be fourth down and goal to go from inside the 10 yard line for some manufacturers and dealers when the Miami International Boat Show and Strictly Sail open today. For those in that unfortunate position, a lack of scoring with significant orders from this show may be handing them a loss in the big game.

Itís hard to write this, but the facts are undeniable: Some builders and dealers will probably call it quits ó unless, that is, the Miami shows somehow delivers a big turnaround message for the industry. Can that happen? Nothingís impossible.

Now donít get me wrong. Iím not ignoring the fact that the loss of some manufacturers and dealers appears unavoidable. But the Miami show very well could deliver enough orders to keep many going as we head for our major spring selling season.

First, I base that opinion on the steady stream of good reports coming out of other shows around the country. It seems the early-January boat shows experienced the largest declines in attendance, albeit most still did better than anyone expected. The late-January and early-February shows, however, have been decidedly better, with attendance nearly as good as a year ago, and retail sales reportedly better than expected in many cases. I give you Strictly Sail Chicago, the Long Island Boat Show, Stuart In-Water Show, Charleston Boat Show and the first half of the L.A. Boat Show as just a few examples.

Second, unquestionably there is already a large pent-up demand for our boats. Logically, if that were not so, our boat shows would have seen huge attendance drops this winter. They didnít, and thatís because the passion and desire for our products remains strong. If there is any one thing keeping that pent up demand in check, it is simply uncertainty. Psychologists tell us none of us feels good when weíre feeling uncertain. Fear of making a mistake in spending sets in, and we wonít act. Itís not that our circumstances have actually changed that much, but we just follow the herd and stop buying because we donít feel good!

But keep in mind that is not where everyone is. For example, just study the five-part series on boat buying that has run here in TradeOnlyToday for the past five days. There are many things to take away from those buyer stories. Among them, there are people who believe their future will be fine, they want their new boat now not later, and they see this point in time is a unique opportunity to buy extremely right! They clearly have moved out of the pent-up place, and I suggest many others will, too! (If you havenít read these stories, I urge you to go back now: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V.)

Finally, I have already walked several sections of the Miami show, as well as the docks over at the huge Yacht & Brokerage Show. I can tell you both shows look big, full and exciting. The products on display are as good as I have ever seen here, and they will send a message that boating is still robust, despite the economy. Moreover, I expect many people will shake off any feelings of uncertainty and become convinced by the genuine deals weíre offering these days. So, score big Miami!

Comments

8 comments on “Is the Miami show game-on-the-line for some?

  1. charles

    Norm,
    I too am an optimist and also hope the MIAMI show is one that turns the industry around. However, I am not sure you do your constituents (dealers) a disservice with an eternally upbeat forecast. Sometimes reality is more valuable. MarineMax, a good proxy for the retail side of the biz, came out with happy comments about Ft Laud show… and they just reported Q4 revenues off 52%, (from the dismal 07 comparable quarter) a period which included the sunny Ft Laud show sales numbers. I think the better advice may be something along these lines, a concept I told to my auto dealer clients (i am a marketing consultant) back in late 07…. Batten Down the HATCHES! If it is not life or death, cut it NOW. Don’t wait for the market to collapse and take you with it. You cannot buck the general economic trends which are the worst since the depression and will get worse than they are now. While optimism is a wonderful thing, it can also hurt those who follow your wisdom. This is going to be long and painful and will not turn til 2011 at the earliest. Yes you should market, yes you should go boating, yes you should keep your people upbeat, but in the meantime you better cut those costs and move the iron or you are going to be stuck. Financing is getting worse (both floorP and retail) and so is unemployment, foreclosures, etc. If you have not cut the muscle by now, you better do it tomorrow, then go boating.

  2. David

    Norm as usual you are right on the mark. I have been a boat show producer for nearly 30 years and the bottom line is boat shows are doing exactly what they are supposed to do…..put boat dealers in front of thousands qualified prospects. Period. Not all shows equal. Not all shows are cost effecient. And certainly not all dealers get the same benefits out of shows. But boat show are still the single most cost effective form of advertising in the industry. As you stated in a recent column…and I am paraphrasing…..if you’re not in your local boat show you’re not in the game. Many of the dealers in my new ( yes I said new ) Greater Philadelphia Boat Show have taken spaces up to 60% smaller than what they had just a few years ago. But they realize it’s better to have a small space than no spece at all. I know it’s hard to make a desision between keeping the lights on and doing a boat show but if you don’t do the show there’s no reason to have lights.

  3. CarlM

    Norm you are correct- more than a few dealers & production boat builders will not reopen or continue to act as if they are open after this week. They had already commited & paid the majority of the expenses to exhibit in Miami. Some as you know from walking the show are absent. Though the brokerage show drew in size(big stuff)
    For the first time in forever the Miami show was looking for folks to purchase empty space inside the main building up to a few weeks ago. I know of one central Fla dealer who was able to get a large space inside on the main floor. The once “U” shaped in water dock is an “I”. The phase we are entering will not be pretty as the last act of a desperate man is to give everything away. There are manufacturers consigning disressed inventory, from out of trust dealers, to weakend but still opened dealers within the dealer network. These dealers then have no need to purchase boats until the consignments end. It will come to a point relatively soon where some of these manufacturers will run out of operating capital & close. Then the floorplan companies will first try to sell at huge discount to the remains of the dealer network, then consign, then wholsale direct through liquidators. The longer the depression (a hole in the road) the more will disapair into it. Some bad guys but also some good guys. Let’s hope it’s a shallow hole and those in Miami sell boats.

  4. CarlM

    Norm, This is off topic but I just found this on Rvia site.
    “Additional terms and conditions of the Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility (TALF) released by the Federal Reserve February 6 indicate that consumer RV loans have been added to the program. Capitol Hill sources tell RVIA that dealer floor plan loans are also now included in TALF”.
    Obama went to an RV factory this week not a boat factory. Another nail in the perverbial coffin.

    you don’t have to post just thought you would like the information.

  5. LARRY RODRIGUEZ

    THE MIAMI SHOW HAS TRADITIONALLY BEEN, IF NOT THE LARGEST(IN $$), AMONG THE TOP THREE FOR MANY IN THE INDUSTRY, AT LEAST FOR THOSE IN FLORIDA.
    OVER THE YEARS THE NMMA KEPT CREEPING UP BOOTH PRICE & COST OF DOING THE SHOW, FIRST BECAUSE OF THE DEMAND FOR SPACE, AND SECONDLY, I REALIZE CONVENTION COSTS FORCED SOME OF THIS.
    I REMEMBER WHEN PARKING WAS $5 AND THIS WAS NOT “THAT” LONG AGO, AND DURING THOSE TIMES THE SHOW HAD THE HIGHEST ATTENDANCE EVER!!!
    HOWEVER THE CONSUMER ON THIS YEAR’S SHOW, (ALONG WITH MANY OF THE EXHIBITORS) WILL PAY $ 20 JUST TO PARK YOUR WHEELS , THIS ALONG WITH THE HIGH COST ACROSS THE BOARD AT ALL OTHER SHOWS. (IN FT LAUDERDALE THEY WERE NAILING UPWARDS OF $50 TO PARK!)
    AND WE WONDER, WHY ATTENDANCES ARE DOWN?
    I REALIZE THIS MAY BE SEEN AS INSIGNIFICANT, BUT FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF GETTING THE “BOATER ENTHUSIAST” THAT’S ALREADY OUT THERE, WHO IS ALREADY A “CUSTOMER”, AND PERHAPS COULD CHANGE HIS/HER MIND AND UPGRADE TO A BETTER/BIGGER VESSEL, WHY WOULD HE/SHE BE EXCITED TO TRIP OUT TO A SHOW MILES AWAY? BUT INSTEAD ADD THOSE BUCKS TO HIS BOATING FUEL BUDGET AND GO OUT ON THE (“OLD”) BOAT INSTEAD.
    THE NMMA ALONG WITH MANY OTHER PROMOTERS ARE NOW BECOMING A BIT MORE REALISTIC ABOUT THEIR RULES & CHARGES, AND MORE WILLING TO WORK WITH THEIR “PARTNERS” (CUSTOMERS), BUT IT IS A SHAME IT TOOK A REALITY CHECK AND WAITED SO LONG TO DO IT.
    HIND SIGHT IS 20-20 WE ALL KNOW, AND MANY AT THE SHOW MAY NOT RETURN OR FOR THAT MATTER BE FOUND SELLING RV’S SOMEWHERE NEXT YEAR, AND WHILE THE SHOW MAY SAVE SOME, WE KNOW ALL TOO WELL THAT “ONE” SHOW DOES NOT MAKE IT!
    I DISAGREE WITH THE 2011 DATE, AND WE ALL KNOW WHETHER RIGHT OR WRONG THAT THERE ARE MANY WORKING ON A MUCH QUICKER SOLUTION.
    THOUGH WE KNOW ONE OF THE TOUGH PROBLEMS IS “TRUST”, AND A HARD ONE TO TURN AROUND, I AGREE WITH THOSE THAT EXPECT LATE 2009 EARLY 2010 TO SHOW A SLOW UPWARD CURVE BE REALIZED.

  6. Chris

    I’ve been watching all this unfold the past few months with great interest. I work for a distributor in the marine industry and obviously our sales numbers are off by quite a bit. But one of the scariest bits of news I heard about two weeks ago, the word amoung some similar suppliers is that less then 5 new boat orders for boats in the 50′-85′ Power boat maket on the East coast have been drawn up since the start of the Lauderdale boat show, Judging by our orders from those builders on the East coast I would say that very well may be true. If this is the case I see the number of boat builders and dealers that will be left by the end of 2010 (my perdiction for a turn around) at being about 60% of the number currently operating. I don’t want to be depressing I think yes we do need to be upbeat to the outside world, but inside we need realize we have to hunker down and take advantge where we can to see the other side.

  7. Sunshine State

    The long established Miami Show is facing competition from many (too many!) shows.
    In the past prospective buyers would stream in to Miami to view the full line of manufacturer’s offerings- as regional dealers began to stock a more comprehensive representation of their respective lines the need to travel to Miami began to decrease.
    The “Brokerage” show on Collins Avenue has evolved to reflect the South Florida Mega Yacht world- after a couple of years ‘average’ boat buyers learned to not even bother going to the brokerage show.
    And finally- my native poor old Miami has been trashed with too much development and too much of a lot of things……….those in the know and willing to admit it have known that with increasing frequency many opt to decline Miami.

  8. CarlM

    Here is a telling quote from the Miami show manager. “Rick-Joule said most of those who came to the show were already financed and knew what they wanted to buy.”
    This means the 26% fewer attendees who walked in the gate were pre-sold – No new to boating folks in that statement. I would presume they only came to do the deal as they were told by the sales guys that they would get the promotion DeJour if they inked the deal at the show. It could also mean that they zipped in & out of the show or went around after inking the deal to play with the other brands sales folks.
    If the bloom is off the rose, which it looks to be – will any one have the guts to publish the o-bits of the industry?

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