Most of the boat exhibitors at this year's Toronto International Boat Show are saying the same thing: higher sales and more qualified customers. Held at the Direct Energy Centre in Toronto January 9 to 17, the show's attendance was 74,931, down only two percent from last year. However, the majority of exhibitors reported higher if not satisfying sales numbers.
“We are so pleased with the attendance and that fact that visitors were so qualified,” said Show Manager Cynthia Hare. “When we talked to all the boat dealers and accessories people it was a good show for both of those categories. This year we had so many people say they had record or strong sales. We had a very strong closing weekend, so overall I think we're feeling the boating industry is on the upswing and that there's a bright future ahead.”
Brunswick, which exhibited nine boat brands with approximately 90 boats on display, had positive reports coming out of the show. “We were absolutely pleased with our performance,” said Bryan Down, District Business Manager for Brunswick. Down is responsible for the Bayliner brand across Canada and the Princecraft brand for Ontario. “Our numbers for Bayliner were up nicely over last year but not to the numbers of 2008. It was the same for Princecraft, up well over last year. Down says this year adjustments were made to the booth displays in response to dealer feedback regarding flow patterns and product model mix. “I know attendance was down this year, but there were good quality people there and we saw it in our sales and we're seeing it in our leads as well.”
News from Yamaha Motor Canada was encouraging as well. “We had the best show ever,” said Al Gallagher, Area Sales Manager Boats for Yamaha Motor Canada, about G3 sales at the show. “The higher end stuff was selling well.” Gallagher estimates sales were up about a third compared to last year. He attributes the increase to a number of factors. “We've made some switches at our dealer base. Our marketing seems to be working. People are more and more aware of who G3 is and who owns it. We also double our booth space for G3 this year, so we were able to show a good selection of our pontoons that we weren't able to do in the past. On the fibreglass side we doubled our sales on sportboats this year. Part of it was the scare that everybody seemed to be under is over. Last year there was a lot of uncertainty and this year we didn't seem to have that.”
Brock Elliott, General Manager of Campion Marine, came out of the show optimistic. “Not only did we double our sales on the opening weekend year-over-year, we sold boats all week too,” said Elliott. “We got lots of new dealer inquiries as well. Another interesting aspect of this year's show for us was the number of outboard motors we sold – more than ever!”
Dave Mayhew, President of The Boat Warehouse in Kingston, ON reported having a very successful show. “It didn't matter the size of the boat they were interested in, if they saw it and liked it, they were willing to pull the trigger and buy it,” said Mayhew.
Shane Green, President of Infinyte, who exhibited for the first time at the Toronto Boat Show this year, was also pleased with the outcome. “Many people were not expecting to see an electric boat here,” said Green. “We've made sales. Our booth has been busy and we've accomplished what we set out to do at the show.”
Powerboat exhibitors are not the only ones reporting an increase in sales.
“This year our sales were up 400 percent,” said Allan Mestel, Vice President and dealer principal of True North Yachts in Port Credit, ON. “We are also expecting another two sales shortly as a result of the show. The general mood at the show was positive and more show visitors were sending the buying signals.”
Fogh Marine Limited had 65 kayaks and small sailboats ranging from 8 to 17 feet in length on display in the main hall in addition to its retail booth in the Mariner's Marketplace. “The entertainment seeker was not there this year, it was the more serious buyer,” said Morton Fogh, President of Fogh Marine Limited. “People are really considering the full merits of their purchase. There is more hard thinking going on, not like a few years ago where people were more impulsive. The demand never really went away.”
Fogh's also experienced an increase on the retail side, which was shared by several other exhibitors in Mariner's Marketplace section of the show. Several retail exhibitors found that consumer interest was high in electronics and that consumer confidence was returning.
“Our retail sales were better than last year, but we're still feeling the effects of the economic downturn,” said Fogh. “There's still room for improvement. We did find that people were interested in electronics and clothing, but that's generally consistent each year.”
Next year's Toronto International Boat Show is scheduled for January 8 to 16.