Early Spring Fuels Optimism Among Manitoba Boat Dealers

An early spring brought smiles to the faces of Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario boat dealers who participated in the 2015 Mid-Canada Boat Show. The annual event was held March 5 to 8 at the RBC Convention Centre Winnipeg.

"The early spring means people will be on the water earlier,' notes Show Manager Dave Amey. "We had ten dealers participating and more than 200 boats on display. Our attendance was slightly down from last year. We're a fishing community and fish boats have always been steady sellers. In years past, pontoons went through the roof and everyone was buying them, but I don't sense that this year. I wouldn't say there was one particular boat category stood out from the others.'

Amey is affectionately known as ‘Trade Show Dave' among some exhibitors, a nickname he's embraced on his homepage of his personal show management business, Dave Amey and Associates. "Even though we were down a little in gate, show sales were still very strong, which is a good thing,' says Amey. He believes the show venue's $180 million 2016 expansion plans may have been a factor. "With all the construction going on at the Winnipeg Convention Centre, it's a bit of a mess downtown. Sometimes people are turned off by the challenges construction creates for finding parking, detours and traffic, which may have had a small impact on our show. However, next year we'll have a refreshed facility and we're excited about that.'

Ken Hiebert of WSL Sport and Leisure (with stores in Winnipeg and Kenora) recalls what last year was like – with a record cold winter, large heaps of snow and not much of a spring. "Springtime and summer were not nice last year,' he says. "The water was high in the Kenora area well into the summer.' Hiebert says he "saw a lot of people over the weekend, made some sales and had a lot of good leads.'

"We certainly hope that this year turns out better than last year,' says Kevin Henwood of West Hawk Marine in West Hawk Lake in eastern Manitoba. He reports that his sales team sold five pontoons and three towboats during the course of the show.

"If spring stays like this, we are going to double our sales,' notes Garth Bromley of Rond's Marine in Winnipeg. "We had a lot of interest and quite a few sales.  And sales continued strong in the days after the show, too. Bromley reports strong sales in non-current models at his booth.  "With the weaker dollar, people are more interested in buying last year's boats,' he says.

"The interest was way better than last year,' says Jim Flood of Bowline Yachts in Winnipeg.

For Bill Murray of Mobile One Marine in Brandon, Manitoba, who has been in the business for 35 years, this was the first time that he participated in the show. The impetus, he says, was to promote his new line of Legend aluminum fishing boats and pontoons.  While Murray reports pontoon and 16- to 18-foot fishing boats were strong, Greg Alcock, Sales Manager of Woodlake Marine in Kenora, found that the fishing boat market wasn't as active as in previous years.

Like Mobile One Marine, Woodlake Marine introduced a new line at the show.  Woodlake is now a dealer of KingFisher Boats, designer, builder and marketer of welded heavy-gauge aluminum boats in North America with over 40 models available.

Alcock notes that Woodlake is no longer selling Lund Boats. Instead, WSL Sport and Leisure in Kenora now offers the aluminum line. "Lund always draws a lot of interest,' notes WSL's Ken Hiebert.  "We also had a lot of interest in our Cobalts, pontoons and tow boats.'

Avo Marine's Larry Wadge (based in Winnipeg) reports strong sales of Evinrude's E-TEC Generation 2 GT outboards.

Luke's Town Service in Elie (about a half hour drive west of Winnipeg) was back in the show – after a four-year absence – with a new line of Pile Motor Launch boats.  "We had a very good show,' says dealer principal Luke Legault.  "We think our new line is going to be dynamite.'

Dave Amey says the show's staff tracks boat sales with the cooperation of exhibiting dealers. "It's important for them to know where they compare with other dealers,' he explains. "We never share confidential consumer information or transaction details, rather it's a general summary including the type and number of boats sold. It's a good thing to have because your business is only as good as what you can measure.'

Amey estimates aluminum fishing boats and pontoons represent 75 percent of the vessels on display, while fiberglass runabouts make up approximately 25 percent.

The RBC Convention Centre Winnipeg is currently undergoing a major expansion that will see the show held exclusively on the venue's third floor. Nearly 134,000 square feet of space will be at the show's disposal in 2016. Next year's Mid Canada Boat Show is tentatively set for March 3 to 6.