Better Results at the Toronto International Boat Show 2012

The Toronto international boat show closed its doors on Sunday, January 22 after 9 days of favorable weather and apparently increased attendance.

Boating Industry Canada magazine interviewed several of the exhibitors at the show to ask them their impressions. Morten Fogh of Fogh Marine emphasized the importance of not sugarcoating the results. The last few years have not been strong, but he felt that business was indeed picking up this year.

Jamie Small at CO2 Inflatables commented that they were holding their own with results that were on par for the last few years, but he noted that the boat sizes were changing and in his opinion, there’d been a shift from blue-collar to more white-collar buyers. Overall, he concluded that it’s been a strong show for his business.

Jack Summers, owner of Radioworld who had a major display of marine electronics enjoyed much different results. He told us, “I think this has been the biggest show ever in any product category, even without the final Sunday results. We are already at our 3rd biggest show ever and were confident that we will beat our 2008 record.”

Summers also echoed Jamie Small’s comment regarding the change in customer mix, expressing that while blue-collar type buyers have been significant in the last few years, he was now seeing the return of the white-collar buyers. He bases his judgment in part because they always ask about the boat the customer is buying products for and he noted that those boats were predominantly in the 25 foot plus class.

Glen Dailey at EZ Dock is selling an entirely different product; a versatile system of plastic docking components and accessories. He made the interesting comment that the weekends were not as good as the weekdays. Again, this is a company who is selling actively at the show and his observation was that the crush of people on the Saturdays and Sundays did less for him than the buyers who came in on the weekdays. Those were the serious buyers for his business.

In the sailboat category, Steve McPherson at Navy Point Yachts commented that the traffic seemed way up this year, possibly a result of the new “upper deck system” that allowed sailboat buyers to view many different yachts at deck level. He felt that it seemed to concentrate the crowds and he commented that his traffic was better than the previous year.

Jeff Wilcox from George’s Sports and Marine in Ottawa felt that the show had a much better feeling then in 2011. Although his business is a 5 hour car ride away in the Ottawa area, he commented that they were optimistic before the show started and now feel that the show has exceeded those expectations.

Jason Crate at  Crate’s Lake Country Boats said that for them, it’s been a great show because buyers were demonstrating a much more positive attitude. As Jason said, “The doom and gloom of the last few years seems to have gone.”

Gary Poole of Buckeye Marine is ranked 8th in North America in the Top 100 marine dealers. With a large team of people they take a very analytical, hard numbers approach to their business. Gary told us that his people record to the minute, when they sell boats at the show and that the 2012 show has been up between 15 and 20% in both unit numbers and in dollar volume. He noted that they sold two large and expensive boats last year which took the 2011 dollar volumes up significantly and yet, they were ahead of the previous year to that extent. Although he shared a lot more information with us, perhaps the most interesting comment was that to that point in the show, Buckeye had sold 50 boats and only taken 5 trade-ins; a strong indication that these are new boat owners.

Going into Sunday, January 22 which was the final day, dealers at the show had recorded 713 boat sales. While much can change even in a matter of days, this bodes well for the upcoming Vancouver and Halifax shows taking place this February.

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