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Fall boat shows get underway today

The traditional round of fall boat shows kicks off today with the opening of the 30th annual Michigan City In-Water Boat Show just outside Chicago. It’s no surprise the show is smaller than last year, but there appears to be no shortage of enthusiasm. While Show Manager Ken Alvey isn’t making any predictions of what the attendance or sales might be, the fact that the dealers expect to be face-to-face with thousands of prospects for four days has them obviously positive.

“We’ve actually seen good activity in the last couple of weeks,” said Bob Gross of Pine Crest Marina, LaPorte, Ind. “and that includes several sales. So, we think this show could surprise us.”

If there’s such a thing as a fall in-water show “circuit,” Michigan City is the first and will be followed by such shows as Cedar Point, Norwalk, Annapolis, Ft. Lauderdale and wind up at St. Petersburg in early December. Some shows, among them Racine, Norfolk, Boston and Toronto that would have been on the “circuit,” have been cancelled for this round. But for those shows slated to carry on, there are some positive signals.

For example, last week the Index of Leading Economic Indicators (LEI) for July was released by the Conference Board. Year-to-year, the Index was up by 0.2 percent, the first reading in the plus column since 2007! But that’s not the whole story. The LEI has actually been improving since April, steadily rising from a negative -3.0 percent in April to -1.8 percent in May to -1.1 percent in June to the positive reading in July. Interestingly, the LEI has been recognized as the most successful predictor of recessions having correctly forecast every one since 1960.

After improving three months in a row and finally moving above the zero line into positive territory in July, the LEI appears to be sending out positive signals that this severe recession is winding down. Moreover, although it doesn’t necessarily indicate a strong recovery is ahead, such a positive turn, when combined with the pent up demand for our marine products, could trigger some unexpected sales results along the fall show “circuit.”  After all, today’s boat buyers will be well aware that the boats on display will be predominantly 2009s and back, and may well represent the final chance to get a true bargain. When they’re gone, they’re gone, so to speak!

One thing seems certain. Dealers in markets where there are major fall shows still slated to go should be exhibiting. If there is an improvement in the sales picture, it will manifest itself at the fall shows. A dealer who isn’t there could miss out. As the great Wayne Gretzky is credited with saying: “You miss every shot you never take!”

Here’s today’s How I Discovered Boating video:


4 comments on “Fall boat shows get underway today

  1. Nancy Piffard

    Hi Norm,
    Hellooooo—– You forgot to mention the Newport International Boat Show in your article! It runs before Norwalk and Annapolis. As a man with such industry knowledge – how could you leave out a show that has been running strong for 39 years and is one of the largest in- water shows in the country. It should certainly be part of the “fall boat show cirrcuit”. We, and all our exhibitors, are alive and well and feel slighted to have not made the list.

    Nancy Piffard
    Show Director

  2. X-Rayer

    Give me a break. The economic out look is not there and the numbers will be down. The best buy’s will be the those models from 05,06,07,08 still out there in huge numbers. No new 010 boat orders and all the quality boat buiilders are long gone and so will be the quality of the products. Buyer be ware.

  3. Chip Hart

    Hello Norm!

    As a production company with two winter boat shows that actually fared better then expected from all accounts though they weren’t barn burners, we have to remain optimistic to see success come our way. And that goes for the participating dealers as well.

    I also expect that the complexion of the vast majority of the upcoming fall and winter shows could change……some drastically. The attendees will notice but not the inner workings of marine industry and the circumstances bringing us to this point (unless they follow the trades). Nor will they care if given the opporunity to provide the details.

    The challenge of every show will be to provide the level of quality and variety we have over the last number of decades. Therefore the need for optimism and perseverence regardless of what happens this fall leading into the big winter show season! Looking forward to more reports from you, Soundings, and all of the shows as the season progresses.

    Chip Hart
    Hart Productions, Inc.

  4. Dave Geoffroy

    Hi Norm:
    Out west we’re feeling pretty good about the prospects of our 41st Annual Long Beach Yacht and Boat Show opening September 10 at Shoreline Village Marina. The exhibitor list is growing daily thanks to some innovative incentives SCMA is offering to participants. We’ve trimmed as much fat as we possibly can from show production and invested more money into advertising and promotion. We’re definitely going all-out to maximize attendance and attract qualified buyers to the show. Wish us luck.

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