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Neither snow, nor rain, nor an Atlanta tsunami!

If it wasn’t so annoying, it would be funny. Football in Houston, snow in Chicago, bad roads (schools closed early) in Nashville, winter storm in Cleveland and a tsunami in Atlanta all disrupted many boat shows last week . . . but the shows still rolled on.

It was truly “the week that was” and it wasn’t all good. In spite of that, sales were being reported and attendees were still showing up, even if in fewer numbers than expected.

In the nation’s heartland, it’s been an unusually mild winter with virtually no ice and snow for divers to face – good boat show weather. Good, that is, until the first big blast of winter slammed into Nashville, Chicago and Cleveland, impacting attendance.

“We should have seen it coming,” says Ken Alvey, manager of the Cleveland show. “It’s been such a quiet winter, not even a white Christmas. It’s like Mother Nature was just waiting for boat show time to remind us it’s still January around here,” he chuckled. While attendance was down more than 20 percent for Cleveland’s opening weekend, the show runs through next Sunday and Alvey is optimistic there’s still time to gain a lot of that back. In the mean time, reports from dealers indicate good early sales and very upbeat consumers, he noted.

Not to be outdone, shows in the warmer South faced their own challenges. In Houston, for example, football caused show manager Ken Lovell to keep the lights off on the show’s first Saturday because the NFL Houston Texans first-ever playoff game was slated for Reliant Stadium, which occupies the same property (parking) as the Reliant Center. Then, on Monday, in keeping with everything’s bigger in Texas, Houston was hit by some eight inches of rain in a short time flooding roads everywhere and making it virtually impossible for exhibitors, never mind the public, to reach the show.

“Obviously, we had a mountain to climb,” Lovell said on the phone yesterday morning, noting staff was still auditing all their various admissions for a final count, albeit he knows attendance will be down. “It’s really tough to give up any Saturday (traditionally the biggest attended days) and expect to make it all up. Still, we thought we might until the monsoons hit.”

But nobody can trump Larry Berryman at last weekend’s Atlanta Boat Show. For him, a monsoon would not have been big enough news. So, it was a tsunami that made national headlines and kicked off his opening day with . . . well, a flood of TV and Internet coverage. FOX-TV crews had just finished taping at a giant wakeboarding demo pool when something ruptured (still being determined) and a wave of 200,000 gallons of water rushed out into the boat show. That brought in every other network and cable news outlet and the national coverage was huge!

Was it a show manager’s dream or nightmare? “Depends on how you look at it,” Berryman told me yesterday. “I guess everyone in the nation knows there’s an Atlanta Boat Show. Amazingly, I estimate we had 400 or more people turn out to mop and clean and put things back together and we opened the show only three hours late. What’s more we had really good attendance that evening.”

In the end, it appears the Atlanta show produced some strong sales, too. One example: sales for MarineMax were up 80 percent over a year ago, according to manager Joey Jones, including a 45-foot Sea Ray.

I suppose a tsunami just before opening might freak out the best of show managers. But not Berryman. His response to all the media should go down as a classic. He reportedly said: “There’s really no damage. After all, it is a boat show – everything here floats!”

Running boat shows is never easy. I know. So, a tip of the hat to all show managers, especially Berryman today.

Comments

4 comments on “Neither snow, nor rain, nor an Atlanta tsunami!

  1. Carol Dietz

    PROVIDENCE BOAT SHOW SEES
    ATTENDANCE RISE; BUYER ATTITUDE POSITIVE

    Providence, RI, January 16, 2011… Attendance at this year’s Providence Boat Show increased at the steady rates seen at last year’s show as well as at the Newport International Boat Show this past September. Attendees were buying boats and seriously considering purchases of both boats and all kinds of accessories and equipment. Some who already own a boat flocked to the new Marine Bargain Basement section of the Show and other new features like the Do-It-Yourself Workshops to give the show a lively vibe. All in all, the 2012 Providence Boat Show was said to be a success, according to the Show producers and the partnering Rhode Island Marine Trade Association.

    The Providence Boat Show, which ran this past weekend (January 12 – 15), is the largest winter boat show in Southeastern New England and the first show of the year in the New England region. As such, it is an indicator of where the market stands as the boating season begins and boaters and fishermen start to make their plans for the new year. Preliminary attendance figures show a rise of from 3- 5% over 2011 with the total gate in the tens of thousands.

    Tom Delotto, Director, noted that “the number of boats being shown – both in sail and power – increased slightly over 2011 and all available booths for equipment and accessories were filled. The Marine Bargain Basement on the street level of the Convention Center added to the total amount of space in the Show and there was a lot of positive feedback both among attendees and exhibitors alike.”

    Rudy Mutter of Twin City Marine said “It was definitely better than last year both in attendance and sales. We were taking orders right up to 5 PM on Sunday, the last day of the Show, but every day showed a positive attitude from buyers and real interest in getting back into the market.”

    Matt Leduc of Fleet Yacht Sales, the Southeastern New England Hunter sailboat dealer and brokerage house for both power and sailboats noted that they “had more traffic than last year, both for the sailboats as well as power. The Providence Show is the place where we meet many of our customers for the first time and open a conversation that leads to sales down the line”.

    A number of different raffles and door prize giveaways were offered at the Show and details about the winners are available on the Show website….along with lists of all exhibitors and highlights on the various activities presented. For additional information, call 401-846-1115 or 800-582-7846 or visit http://www.providenceboatshow.com.

  2. Marc Grove

    Larry and the NMMA crew kept pretty cool and the show was pretty busy for us . I have to hand it to them for keeping the show together and quick recovery !

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