A View from Here

Bill's Sisson's weekly Trade Only blog

Postcard from Lauderdale: the new norm

What a difference a year makes. Business is still way off, but the surprise and fear that permeated last year’s Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show as the economy tumbled a bit further each day was mostly gone.

The consumers walking the docks at FLIBS seemed to have found their collective sea legs. They were back testing the waters and looking for deals. Builders and dealers were talking about either making — or having made — a bottom. And their attention was now trained on the slow climb out. The survivors of the tumult of the last 12 months were at Lauderdale.

The number of big boats was up, small boats down. Attendance was flat or up a smidgen. The convention center exhibitors fit on one floor rather than three. And some who had been in the convention center got in-water space for the first time.

Smaller is to be expected. Smaller will be the new norm. As one builder told me: “Normal is not going to be back to where it was, not for a long, long time.”

There were a number of new boat and product introductions at FLIBS, although the volume was down. New product eventually will help jumpstart those consumers who are still just nibbling on the idea of a new boat. And innovations such as pod drives and joystick steering will give early adapters a reason to come back in.

Longer term, whatever changes builders can make to pull costs out of boats — fewer options, more modest power, perhaps — also will help as we move forward.

Bill Sisson
Trade Only Editor


2 comments on “Postcard from Lauderdale: the new norm

  1. Carlm

    LED’s & Value for the consumer dollar is what it is going to be for the forseable future.
    It’s not about cheap boats it’s about well built & thoughtout boats that will look fresh for a long time that is setting the stage & will sell going forward.
    Todays boats will become the clasics of tommarrow as fewer of them will be built.
    Power boaters are now thinking & acting like the Sailboat crowd. Research the brands, look at all that are available, research somemore & eliminate the ones that will not fit the usage, look some more closer this time, research the sellers(dealers), visit the sellers & look around, pause to reflect, start negotiating both price & Service. It’s not going to be go to a boat show have a few beers & buy a boat anymore….. Flat attendance is good It means we haven’t lost them yet.

  2. Sunshine State

    It is wise to place minimal emphasis on Ft. Lauderdale Show attendance figures- indeed,as the size of the vessels has gone up,general attendance has gone down.Those of us long involved with the companion Brokerage show have seen this dynamic with a nationwide customer base that has learned that this venue is no longer a likely place for the “Average” ‘big boat’ buyer.
    Further, a past driver for attendance drawing from a nationwide audience has been the opportunity to view a given builder’s full line of offerings convenient to see in one location.Improvements in regional display efforts may have altered the need to travel to South Florida.

    The past year has allowed many to recover from stunned incomprehension.

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