The professional football season might be ending with the Super Bowl this weekend, but another season is kicking off just a week later. For boat dealers, the New England Boat Show, held Feb. 9-17 in Boston, represents the start of the year’s sales season.
“The Boston Boat Show is kind of like the Super Bowl of boat shows,” said Jason St. Gelais, sales associate at East Coast Flightcraft.
Flightcraft goes to eight or 10 boat shows a year, as far away as Los Angeles. But, especially for dealers around the Northeast, those other shows only serve as warm-ups.
“It’s the biggest event in New England, for every dealer that is attending, and for the consumer as well,” St. Gelais said.
The New England Boat Show will be held in South Boston, at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. That’s a 90-mile drive from Laconia, and local boat dealers will get to know that route pretty well.
Ward’s Boat Shop in Ossipee will be bringing a dozen pontoons. Goodhue Boat Company, which operates both Goodhue Hawkins in Wolfeboro and Shep Brown’s Boat Basin in Meredith, will bring close to 20 boats. East Coast Flightcraft will be bringing 35 boats down to Boston. Each of those boats has to be towed down – and back – individually. And then there’s the setup of their booth, as each vendor will try to make theirs more attractive, welcoming and informative than their neighbor’s.
More than 50,000 people are expected to attend, and they won’t be just window-shopping. They’ll get the chance to see and touch all of the newest models and technologies, and if they see something they like, they can seal the deal right then and there. Others will take in all the information and offers, and make their decision in a week or two.
“We’ll sell a bunch there,” said Barry Rollins, owner and president of Ward’s Boat Shop. The majority of his customers are Massachusetts residents who do their boating in the Lakes Region. He’s been attending the Boston show for 30 years. “Sometimes they buy right at the show, other times they’ll visit the shop and buy after the boat show. It’s a good time of year, any time you get that many dealers together, competition works and prices go down, which is good for the dealer and good for the consumer.”
“It’s really getting the customer and us the chance to interact, get on the boats, talk about features, hopefully get some leads and talk about sales,” said Kaisey Arena, marketing manager for Goodhue Boat Company.
To those outside of the sport, the dead of winter might seem like an odd time to shop for a boat. Arena said the opposite is actually true.
“Winter is the best and busiest time to buy,” she said. Making a deal now gives the consumer a chance to select the color, interior and other features they want, and the manufacturer will have ample time to built the boat in time for Memorial Day. “Hopefully it will be ready and delivered to the customer and able to be enjoyed all summer.”
The boat show also gives dealers a chance to make an impression on consumers who might not have otherwise considered them, said St. Gelais.
“We will have folks from Maine, from Canada, from all over the place that come to the Boston boat show. It has become the start of the boating season in New England,” said St. Gelais. “We’ll sell a ton of boats there on the floor, but we’ll also walk away with several leads,” he added. “We’re excited, the economy is definitely in our favor, people are buying boats.”