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Higher attendance at Houston Boat Show buoys sales



Harold Gore, right, and his son, Brandon, try out the front lounge of the 2018 Sea Ray 320DA-0B at the 63rd annual Houston International Boat, Sport and Travel Show, also known as Houston Boat Show, at NRG Center on Friday, Jan. 5, 2018, in Houston. ( Yi-Chin Lee / Houston Chronicle ) less

Photo: Yi-Chin Lee, Houston Chronicle

The Houston Boat Show this year saw an 18 percent increase in attendees over last year, buoying sales as buyers look to replace vessels damaged by Hurricane Harvey.

More than 81,000 people packed NRG Center Jan. 5 to 14 as hundreds of dealers showcased more than 1,000 boats and campers. Organizers initially expected as many as 75,000 people to attend the 63rd annual expo, billed as the largest indoor boat show in the nation.

Organizers attributed the increased attendance to longer hours of operations. For the past four years, the boat show was forced to suspend the expo for a day due to the Houston Texans playoff games at NRG Stadium. Since there was no playoff game this year, the show was held for the full 10 days.

The attendance bump led to higher sales, said Ken Lovell, president of the boat show. Exact figures were not disclosed, but both boat and RV dealers reported “enthusiastic buyers,” Lovell said.

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Texas Marine – which has stores in Beaumont, Clear Lake and Conroe – sold almost 200 boats during the show, about a 5 percent increase over last year’s show. The boat dealer operated a 33,000-square-foot booth exhibiting 73 boats at the show.

“Our industry is driven by consumer confidence,” Jonathan Whitmire, general manager of Texas Marine’s Conroe store, said. “People in Houston are doing well financially. They don’t mind spending some money on themselves.”

Boat sales are rising amid slow-but-steady improvements in the local economy, fueled in large part by stabilizing oil prices. Local dealers saw sales drop as oil prices bottomed out in early 2016, but rising oil prices have elevated consumer confidence and sales in recent months.

An estimated 260,000 new powerboats were sold nationally in 2017, a 6 percent increase over the previous year, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association. The group expects another 5 to 6 percent increase in boat sales this year, particularly among family fun boats, fishing boats and cruisers.

Houston-area dealers are hopeful sales will increase in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, which damaged or destroyed an estimated 13,500 boats worth $155 million, according to data from the U.S. Boat Owners Association.

Although boat dealers didn’t see an immediate uptick in sales after Harvey, many expect replacement sales to rise before the summer boating season.

Whitmire with Texas Marine said many boats were lost on Lake Conroe and Lake Houston due to the hurricane. As Houston recovers from Harvey and the energy downturn, he expects boat sales to pick up. To prepare, Texas Marine has increased its boat inventory, particularly for its most popular boats like the NauticStar bay boats and Avalon pontoons.

“We’re gearing up for a big year,” Whitmire said.

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Chicago and Minneapolis shows report strong sales and leads

Last weekend’s Progressive Insurance Chicago Boat, RV Sail Show wrapped a five-day run with a final attendance of 48,644, up 4 percent from last year’s attendance of 46,670.

Exhibitor feedback was positive on strong sales and crowds, including Saturday, which saw more than 20,000 visitors in attendance.

On Sunday, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel toured the show with Show Manager Keith Ogulnick, and met with exhibitors and attendees, before hosting a tourism-focused press conference at the show.

The Progressive Insurance Minneapolis Boat Show also closed its four-day run on Jan. 14 with attendance of 34,402, down 5.5% from 36,388 in 2017. 

Dealers reported solid sales and quality leads, despite the show’s attendance being impacted by Sunday’s Minnesota Vikings home playoff game. 

The first-ever Minneapolis Innovation Awards were held last Thursday at the show. The Innovation Awards recognized winners in three product categories: Aluminum Fishing Boats (Impact XS, Lund Boats), Fiberglass Fishing Boats (WX2060, Skeeter Boats), and Pontoon Boats (L-Class, Barletta Boats).

“It is a testament to the importance of the Minneapolis Boat Show to move three categories of the Innovation Awards to Minneapolis,” said Darren Envall, show manager. “Fishing boats and pontoons have a strong presence in this marketplace and the Minneapolis Boat Show is the best place to see the latest technology and innovation in these categories year after year.”

Up next are three shows: the Progressive Insurance Nashville Boat Show, the Progressive Insurance Atlanta Boat Show and the Progressive Insurance Kansas City Boat Sportshow, all running through Sunday, Jan. 21.

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Juice brand Paper Boat loses steam, sales down 12.5%

MUMBAI: Ethnic drinks brand Paper Boat seems to be slowing down finally after sailing high for almost seven years, as health-conscious consumers cut back on sugary products in a slowing economy.

Hector Beverages, maker of Paper Boat, posted a tepid 12.5% growth in sales in the year ended March 2017 after doubling its sales in the previous year.

Hector Beverages reported sales of ₹69 crore and net loss of ₹78 crore for 2016-17, as per its latest filing with the Registrar of Companies (RoC). It had posted sales of ₹62 crore and net loss of ₹84 crore in the previous year.

Rival beverages makers PepsiCo and Coca-Cola, too, have been struggling to grow their sales while top confectioners Mondelez and Ferrero India posted one of their slowest sales growth last year.

Hector Beverages has had a successful run since Neeraj Kakkar and Neeraj Biyani, both former Coca-Cola employees, founded it in 2010. While its first product was energy drink Tzinga, the company shifted complete focus on the ethnic drinks segment two years later, and managed to create a niche for itself, growing three times between 2012 and 2015.

Its success prompted packaged juice category leaders such as Dabur’s Real and PepsiCo’s Tropicana to bring out traditional flavours such as coconut water, jaljeera and mosambi.

ITC has announced new launches within its B Natural brand with region-specific fruits.

This rising competition, according to experts, may have affected Hector’s sales.

“The novelty factor in terms of product and packaging seems to be waning,” said Abneesh Roy, senior vice-president, institutional equities, at Edelweiss Securities. “Also, the price doesn’t appeal to mass consumers and the initial sales were boosted by Indigo Airlines tie-up,” he said.

Hector Beverages didn’t respond to an email query sent to the company as of press time Thursday.

Shifting consumer tastes are prompting beverages giants, including Coca-Cola and PepsiCo to diversify away from traditional soda and high-calorie juices.

Two years ago, Hector Beverages spent about ₹30 crore to set up its second manufacturing unit in Mysore to cater to southern and western markets. The company has also partnered Japanese food giant Indo Nissin Foods to strengthen its distribution and brand presence in tier II cities and rural markets.

It entered ethnic snacks market last year by launching peanut chikki.Backed by multiple investors such as Sequoia Capital and China’s Hillhouse Capital, Hector Beverages has so far raised nearly ₹300 crore.

Growth has slowed in the ₹22,000-crore carbonated soft drinks market as consumers increasingly switch to healthier beverages such as juices, energy drinks, flavoured tea, fortified water and dairy-based beverages.

While Paper Boat sells non-carbonated drinks, the products are still high in sugar and aren’t considered healthier than other beverages such as fruit juice.

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