Archive for » May 11th, 2017«

Sellers of recreational boats finally see smooth sailing

TAMPA — Midmorning on Wednesday, the main exhibit hall for the Tampa Bay Boat Show is about half-full. Forklifts maneuver slick, large boats into the warehouse-like space while early vendors unload fishing gear and accessories nearby. More than 100 vendors are expected to pack out the venue before Friday’s opening.

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After weathering choppy waters for several post-recession years, the recreational boating industry is finally bouncing back. Local boating companies are optimistic about the coming summer season, and many are already reporting an uptick in sales.

“They’re not at historical highs, but post-recession boating is doing quite well,” said Chuck Cashman, chief revenue officer for Clearwater-based MarineMax, the largest recreational boat retailer in the country.

MarineMax, like others in its trade, has been buffeted by one economic obstacle upon another over the past decade. The 2008 recession forced consumers’ budgets to tighten, driving down leisure vessel sales. Then in 2010 came the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Later, a spike in gas prices provided a further disincentive for boaters.

But in recent years, the boating industry has drifted into calmer waters.

MarineMax reported $245 million in revenue for the first three months of 2017, up 22.8 percent from the same period last year. Profit for January through March increased from $49 million in 2016 to $61.1 million this year. MarineMax posted just over $940 million in revenue for all of 2016, up 20 percent from 2015.

Cashman attributes higher sales to consumers with more disposable income who are placing a premium on experiences over possessions.

“You don’t need a boat; you need time with your family,” which boating offers, he said.

Other companies, like the Tom George Yacht Group, are faring similarly.

Dusty Smieja, new boat sales manager at Tom George, said the last three years brought double-digit growth in the number of boats sold. Business is so good, he said, that the company is opening another location on US 19.

Smieja was especially hopeful for the show’s turnout and sales.

“This is a peak time of season,” he said. “We’re hoping to (sell) four to five boats.”

The Tampa Bay Boat Show officially opens Friday at 10 a.m. and runs until Sunday at 5 p.m. at the Florida State Fairgrounds. Admission is free.

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Walstrom Marine to open TC store

TRAVERSE CITY — Walstrom Marine is opening a showroom at 3536 N. U.S. 31 in Garfield Township.

The boat sales and service center operates locations in Bay Harbor, Cheboygan, Grand Haven and Harbor Springs. The business joined the Harbor West Yacht Club to establish an on-water presence for larger boats and demonstrations.

The Traverse City location will represent Sea Ray boats between 19 and 65 feet long. It also will deal with the Walstrom Marine’s current lineup of Chris Craft, MJM Yachts, Pursuit Boats and Tiara Yachts. Various models will be on display in the Traverse City showroom.

Company Sales Manager Rick Venner will become general manager of the Traverse City location.

CEO Ward Walstrom said in a release that the company has been considering investment in the Traverse City market for a long time.

Walstrom Marine is a second‐generation, family‐owned company. It is based in Harbor Springs. For more information, visit

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